Narratives of Crisis vs. Narratives of Solidarity. Analyzing Discursive Shifts in Austrian Media Coverage of Refugee Movements from an Interdisciplinary Perspective


  • Birgit Bahtić-Kunrath
  • Carolin Gebauer


When unprecedently large numbers of refugees from Middle Eastern countries fled to Europe in the years 2015 and 2016, the media depicted these events as a moment of crisis that put European cohesion to the test. Ever since the beginning of the so-called refugee crisis, framing migration as a problem that requires solving had been a common practice in European media. Yet media coverage of migration drastically changed in February 2022: After Russia had invaded Ukraine, causing millions of Ukrainians to flee their home country, the persistent crisis narrative eventually made way for a narrative of solidarity. This working paper traces the reasons and outcomes of this discursive shift by examining, from the perspective of interdisciplinary narrative research, how migration was framed and presented in journalistic interviews published in Austrian newspapers, including tabloids and broadsheets, in September 2015 and March 2022. The paper’s combination of methods from the social sciences and the humanities offers an analysis of not only the migration frames and the speakers’ positioning that become manifest in the interview sample (qualitative content analysis), but also the narrative strategies and stylistic devices that are used in the migration narratives emerging from these texts (discourse analysis and narrative analysis). The particular utility of this innovative interdisciplinary multi-method approach, the paper argues, is a comprehensive discussion of migration narrative in media that also addresses frequent shortcomings of disciplinary analysis.