Identity and Mis/Identification: The Asylum Seeker in Roma Tearne’s The Swimmer

  • Sanghamitra Dalal


This chapter examines how identities are reshaped and reconfigured within the context of the displacements triggered by war and a climate of fear and racism underpinning local responses to rising immigration and terrorism across the globe. In the novel The Swimmer (2010) by Sri Lankan-British author, Roma Tearne, notions of identity, specifically involving the representation and misrepresentation of the immigrant, are explored primarily through the figure of the asylum seeker in Britain in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London terrorist bombings. The chapter examines the ways in which notions of identity impinging on the asylum seeker are framed by the hegemonic discourse of inclusion and exclusion involving “us” and “them” and “East” and “West” binaries. It also demonstrates how the concept of identity becomes a tool that can be manipulated to achieve antagonistic ends in times of racist xenophobia.


Immigration Identity representation Asylum seeker Terrorism Britain Multiculturalism Roma Tearne The Swimmer 


  1. Anthias, Floya. 2008. “Thinking Through the Lens of Translocational Positionality: An Intersectionality Frame for Understanding Identity and Belonging.” Translocations: Migration and Social Change 4 (1): 5–20.
  2. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2016a. Strangers at Our Door. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 2016b. “The Refugee Crisis Is Humanity’s Crisis.” The New York Times, May 2.
  4. Blinder, Scott, and William M. Allen. 2016. “Constructing Immigrants: Portrayals of Migrant Groups in British National Newspapers, 2010–2012.” International Migration Review 50 (1): 3–40. Scholar
  5. Campbell, Alexandra. 2017. “Framing Terrorism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Criminology and Criminal Justice. Scholar
  6. Chahuan, Eugenio. 2005. “An East-West Dichotomy: Islamophobia.” Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture 12 (2–3).
  7. Cobain, Ian. 2010. “London Bombings: The Day the Anti-terrorism Rules Changed.” The Guardian, July 7.
  8. East, Ben. 2011. “Painting a Picture.” Manchester Literature Festival Blog, October 16.
  9. “Full Text: Blair Speech on Terror.” 2005. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). July 16.
  10. “Full Transcript: David Cameron: Speech on Radicalisation and Islamic Extremism.” 2011. February 5.
  11. Furedi, Frank. 2007. “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is the ‘Culture of Fear’ Itself.” Spiked Online, April 4.
  12. Gabrielatos, Costas, and Paul Baker. 2008. “Fleeing, Sneaking, Flooding: A Corpus Analysis of Discursive Constructions of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK Press, 1996–2005.” Journal of English Linguistics 36 (1, March): 5–38. Scholar
  13. Gordon, Bryony. 2015. “Remembering Jean Charles de Menezes, the Forgotten Victim of 7/7.” The Telegraph, July 24.
  14. Hall, Stuart. 1990. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” In Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, 222–237. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 1996. “Introduction: Who Needs Identity?” In Questions of Cultural Identity, edited by Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, 1–17. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Haviland, Charles. 2015. “UN Human Rights Council Urges Sri Lanka War Crimes Court.” September 16.
  17. Home Office. 2002. Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain. HMSO, February 7.
  18. Huntington, Samuel. 1996. The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  19. Kundnani, Arun. 2007. The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  20. Lewis, Miranda. 2006. Warm Welcome? Understanding Public Attitudes to Asylum Seekers in Scotland. Institute for Public Policy Research Paper.
  21. Mercer, Kobena. 1994. Welcome to the Jungle. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Mooney, Jayne, and Jock Young. 2005. “Imagining Terrorism: Terrorism and Anti-terrorism Terrorism, Two Ways of Doing Evil.” Social Justice 32 (1): 113–125.
  23. Mythen, Gabe, and Walklate Sandra. 2006. “Communicating the Terrorist Risk: Harnessing a Culture of Fear?” Crime, Media, Culture 2 (2): 123–142. Scholar
  24. Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  25. Sales, Rosemary. 2005. “Secure Borders, Safe Haven: A Contradiction in Terms?” Ethnic and Racial Studies 28 (3): 445–462. Scholar
  26. Simon, Paul. 2010. “Novelist Roma Tearne.” The Morning Star UK, April 23.
  27. Talabani, Kanar. 2016. “Defining a Terrorist: A Critical Examination of the Discourse of Terrorism.” Inquiries Journal 8 (9).
  28. Tearne, Roma. 2010. The Swimmer. HarperCollins E-books. Kindle.Google Scholar
  29. Thomas, Adrian. 2012. “Asylum Seekers Continues to Be Stigmatised by the British Press.” The Guardian, October 31.
  30. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2008. “Refugee Protection and Durable Solutions in the Context of International Migration.” April.
  31. ———. 2010. “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.”
  32. Vertovec, Steven. 2007. “Super-Diversity and Its Implications.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 30 (6): 1024–1054. Scholar
  33. “You Are Either with Us or Against Us.” 2001. Cable News Network (CNN), November 6.
  34. Zetter, Roger. 1991. “Labelling Refugees: Forming and Transforming a Bureaucratic Identity.” Journal of Refugee Studies 4 (1): 39–62. Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanghamitra Dalal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Artistic Writing, Faculty of Film, Theatre and AnimationUniversiti Teknologi MARAShah AlamMalaysia

Personalised recommendations