Maria De Angelis On Competing Narratives On Migration-Crime-Gender Nexus

Annotating Criminology
3 min readApr 11, 2021


Maria De Angelis

In Conflicting Narratives of Crime & Punishment, Maria De Angelis throws light on the diverse narratives on migration that compete with each other. Narratives that expose how gender, crime, and politics of exclusion come to invade the site of migration.

In Identifying these narratives, and how they engage with each other, Angelis is specifically interested in the nexus of migration-crime-gender. How the state’s “masterful narratives on nationhood” situate migrant women, and how these are resisted by the counter-narratives of these very women.

“Political master narratives and migrant counter-narratives can be understood as positional arguments on (de)criminalising migration that demonstrate the power of storytelling both by elite groups and migrant-survivors of these policies.”

Political Master Narratives

Angelis begins by analysing the political master narratives. These master narratives position migration as a threat to national identity and security. They create stories that subject migrants to “politics of fear” and “stranger-making”, otherising them in racially gendered ways. They create images of “good citizens” (us) and the “wrong migrants” (them).

Political master narratives are intertwined with what Angelis calls “duplicity narratives”. Duplicity narratives present the “consequences” of not believing the narratives that project “wrong migrants” — projecting adverse effects on health, work, and welfare:

“… duplicity narratives target the wrong sort of migrants imaged in non-contribution whether asylum seekers, forced labour migrants or trafficking survivors. Told and re-told as tales of job, benefit and health fraud, these narratives not only legitimise public hostility towards non-contributing migrants but also entice civil actors to effect immigration checks on behalf of the State.”

Duplicity narratives also create an image of an “ideal crime victim”, based on gendered assumptions on victimisation, which ends up perpetuating the politics of exclusion against those women who do not squarely fit into this normative ideal victim trope:

“Reflecting normative and gendered assumptions of an ideal crime victim lacking action in her victimisation, survivors of trafficking are storied as someone who is innocent, passive, naïve, exploited and, above all, a “Madonna” figure morally deserving of rescue and help.”

Counter-narratives of Migrant Women

Angelis’ empirical research shows that the counter-narratives of migrant women reveal stories of unjust treatment, and the practices of detention and deportation mandated by the state:

“Women without proof to remain largely narrate their confinement in an IRC as punishment, with all its inherent pains and losses — family separation, social exclusion, fractured identities, controls, and captivity… many narrate their immigration detention as morally “worse” than its criminal justice counterpart, prison.”

These narratives expose how “crimmigrant control” over civil life — work, bank accounts, accommodation — enable the exploitation of migrant women by both the state and the citizens:

“In their counter-stories on duplicity, agency and non-contribution, women’s counter-narratives reposition their harmfulness to citizens with their own harmful exploitation at the hands of elite policy makers, case managers, and unscrupulous citizens.”

Angelis argue that the racialised and gendered othering of political master narratives not only create a distinction between a “citizen” and a “non-citizen” but also colours the public perception on how to identify a “wrong migrant”.

Therefore, she contends that focusing on counter-narratives of women, which are made in the similarly charged political environment can remedy “simplistic and harming explanations of migratory movements as given to us by dominant institutions and agents”. Such counter-narratives can also help us questioning the harms to nationhood and citizenry which are perpetuated by the master narratives.

Complement this with Michael Bamberg on Narrative Discourse and Identities, and Juliet P Stumpf on The Crimmigration Crisis.



Annotating Criminology

I’m Karan Tripathi, a researcher, writer, and this is my one man labour of love exploring Criminology & Penology