Securing the borders of English and Whiteness

Ingrid Piller*, Hanna Torsh, Laura Smith- Khan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


This article examines how racial and linguistic identities are constructed on the Australian reality TV show Border Security. Based on an analysis of 108 episodes of the show involving 253 border force officers and 128 passengers, we explore how the hegemonic Australian identity of the White native speaker of English is constructed on the show. Officers are represented as a relatively uniform group of heroes devoted to protecting Australia’s national security. Simultaneously, most of them look white and sound like native speakers of Australian English. In contrast to the officers, passengers, as their antagonists, do not have a predominant racial or linguistic profile. They are represented as highly diverse. What unites them is not any racial or linguistic profile but that they represent a security risk. Threat thus comes to be mapped onto diversity. The show’s schema of heroes and antagonists invites the audience to identify with the heroes. By identifying with the White-English heroes, the audience also comes to take on their power of judgment over its diverse linguistic and racial Others. The analysis shows how the White-English identity bundle is constructed as the authoritative and legitimate position of the judging knower. The article’s main contribution is to show how the raciolinguistic construct of the White-English complex is made hegemonic in a diverse society officially committed to multiculturalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706–725
Number of pages20
Issue number5
Early online date21 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Border Security: Australia’s Front Line
  • White-English complex
  • homogenization of diversity
  • identity polarization
  • intercultural communication
  • intersection of language and race
  • media representations
  • national identity
  • raciolinguistics
  • securitization


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