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‘It's (not) who we are’: Representing the nation in US and Canadian newspaper articles about refugees entering the country

Nations and Nationalism

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["Nations and Nationalism, Volume 27, Issue 2, Page 513-529, April 2021. ", "\nAbstract\nIdeas about nation and national identity continue to be highly important, for both individuals and collectivities. In this article, I provide a cultural‐sociological reconstruction of the meanings of national identity conveyed in US and Canadian newspaper coverage of refugees entering, or potentially entering, the country. I engage Billig's theory of ‘banal nationalism’ and Anderson's idea of ‘imagined comEties’. In Canada, there is a single narrative that encapsulates ‘who we are’—a generous, welcoming country for people fleeing extraordinarily difficult circumstances, who will eventually integrate and succeed. National identity is processual, narrated as an ongoing ‘national project’. In the US, there are two distinct storylines about ‘who we are not’. Both begin with the country depicted as a humanitarian leader but diverge along political party lines. The Democrats quoted invoke history and ‘American values’ to say this is not a country that turns its back on those in need; the Republicans argue that this is not a country that exposes its people to harm, so refugee admissions must be halted. National identity is more solid, represented in passing; ‘who we are’ is taken for granted by spelling out ‘who we are not’.\n"]