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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2021

Visual Securitization

Humanitarian Representations and Migration Governance


  • Connects visuality with migration governance

  • Describes humanitarian representation of Syrian displacement?

  • This book is available open access and free to read online

Part of the book series: IMISCOE Research Series (IMIS)

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xv
  2. Introduction

    • Alice Massari
    Pages 1-16Open Access
  3. The Theory and Methodology of Visual Securitization

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 17-17
    2. A Visual Approach

      • Alice Massari
      Pages 51-70Open Access
  4. Humanitarian Representation and Migration Governance

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 71-71
    2. Threatening – The Refugee as a Threat

      • Alice Massari
      Pages 103-133Open Access
    3. Threatened, the Refugee as the Referent Object

      • Alice Massari
      Pages 135-166Open Access
    4. The (In)Visibility of Migrants

      • Alice Massari
      Pages 167-192Open Access
    5. Conclusion

      • Alice Massari
      Pages 193-204Open Access

About this book

This open access book offers an innovative account of how relief organizations’ visual depiction of Syrian displacement contributes to reproduce and reinforce a securitized account of refugees. Through visual analysis, the book demonstrates how the securitization process takes place in three different ways. First of all, even if marginally, it occurs through the reproduction of mainstream media and political accounts that have depicted refugees in terms of threats. Secondly, and more consistently, through a representation of Syrian displaced people that, despite the undeniable innovative aesthetic patterns focusing on dignity and empowerment, continue to reinforce a visual narrative around refugees in terms of victimhood and passivity. The reproduction of a securitized account takes also place through the dialectic between what is made visible in the pictures and what is not. At the same time the book identifies visual glimmers and minor displacements in the humanitarian discourse that have the potentiality to produce alternative discourses on refugees and displacement beyond the mainstream securitized ones. By showing how relief organizations’ visual representation contributes to the securitization of the refugee issue, this book provides a great resource to students and academics in migration, visuality, humanitarianism and securitization, as well as social scientists and policy-makers.


  • Visual securitization
  • Migration governance
  • Humanitarian photography
  • Humanitarian representation of Syrian displacement
  • Transnational humanitarian NGOs
  • Humanitarianism and politics
  • Humanitarian communication
  • NGOs visual communication
  • Visuality of Syrian displacement
  • Securitization of the refugee issue
  • Humanitarian NGOs and global governance
  • Visual social semiotics
  • Visual analysis
  • Threatening images
  • Syrian people on the move’ invisibility
  • Visual glimmers
  • Open access


“This is an important and meticulously researched book about the politics of visualising refugee crises. Most books on humanitarian politics are written either by scholars or by practitioners. Visual Securitization is an exception because Alice Massari is able to navigate both of these worlds and advance an innovative scholarly contribution that is, at the same time, of significant practical relevance.” (Roland Bleiker, Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy

    Alice Massari

About the author

Alice Massari works in the humanitarian sector since 2007 as researcher, aid worker and consultant. She holds an M.A. in International Relations and a Ph.D. in Political Science, European Politics and International Relations (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy).  She is currently working as humanitarian affairs officer for UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and has worked as expert on migration for the European Commission, and as aid worker for NGOs in Africa and the Middle East. Her research and writing focus on migration, humanitarianism, visuality and securitization.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Visual Securitization

  • Book Subtitle: Humanitarian Representations and Migration Governance

  • Authors: Alice Massari

  • Series Title: IMISCOE Research Series

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2021

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-71142-9Published: 19 May 2021

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-71145-0Published: 19 May 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-71143-6Published: 18 May 2021

  • Series ISSN: 2364-4087

  • Series E-ISSN: 2364-4095

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XV, 204

  • Number of Illustrations: 13 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Human Migration, Migration Policy, Data and Information Visualization, Governance and Government

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)