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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Patricia Sotirin

Advisor 2

Jennifer Slack

Committee Member 1

Marika Seigel

Committee Member 2

Vincent Latour


Informed by the theory and method of articulation, this dissertation examines the growing prominence of far-right French nationalism by mapping contemporary cultural-political anxieties and antagonisms associated with the “problem of immigration.” It identifies three historical-political mythological formations through which (im)migrants are constituted as threats to the economic welfare, the security, and the cultural identity of the nation. These tenacious articulations take contemporary forms and remain thematic in the context of rising nationalist politics and widespread anti-immigration sentiments.

In this context, the question of the protection of foreign unaccompanied minors has emerged as an increasingly divisive issue in French society. On the front lines of this issue are the state agencies and professionals charged with protecting both the migrant youth and the security and integrity of French society and culture. Accordingly, in-depth interviews were conducted with child welfare social workers to query the articulations among institutional mechanisms and cultural assumptions that frame and infuse the perceptions and practices of social workers responsible for the welfare of migrant youth.

The analysis finds that the system of protection of foreign unaccompanied minors is articulated by and through institutional and cultural discourses and practices permeated by exclusionary nationalist logics reproducing the “problem of immigration.” Material limitations prevent the child welfare system from functioning effectively, the result of political decisions that refuse to prioritize help for migrant populations. Immigration-related requirements complicate minors’ access to protection services and often nullify the work and efforts of social workers and minors to integrate into French society. Finally, nationalist narratives primarily concerned with the cultural incompatibility of immigrants permeate the perspectives of social workers, further compromising the protection of foreign minors.

This research highlights how the “problem of immigration” functions as a feedback loop in which historically entrenched nationalist formations are re-articulated in contemporary events and figures, ensuring the renewal and prevalence of this “problem.” As such, it has become both an indicator and a driving force of contemporary nationalism, designed to segregate and “protect” Western societies in the face of global migrations.