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Political Discourse Analysis. Language, Media, and Politics (with a special focus on the representation of Islam, in recognition of the University of Essex’s Islamic Awareness Week, 18 – 22 February 2008) . Sociolinguistics LG232. The last 5 weeks (Part 1) we have looked at:

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Political Discourse Analysis

Language, Media, and Politics (with a special focus on the representation of Islam, in recognition of the University of Essex’s Islamic Awareness Week, 18 – 22 February 2008)


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Sociolinguistics LG232

  • The last 5 weeks (Part 1) we have looked at:

  • Macro-level: the ways language is politicised by different groups (language movements, governments) to achieve certain aims.

  • Such as: national unity, regional identity, as a basis to claim rights/resources for minority groups.

  • The ways in which multilingualism is managed in societies.

  • And that for power to exist, there must be resistance

  • What we haven’t looked at: resistance at the individual level in terms of use of language (weeks 23 – 25)

  • Or … actual ‘language use’


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Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Draws heavily on the work of Foucault.

  • Discourse: statements about things, which come to be considered ‘true’

  • And which produce ideological positions

  • Discourses on medicine, psychiatry – even language

  • Also draws on theorists such as Bourdieu

  • Discourse can also be: conversations, written material (such as newspapers, or political speeches)

  • But even these discourses produce concepts and ‘truths’ and limit what can and cannot be said about a subject in a particular context

  • Critical Discourse Analysis looks at ‘real’ natural language

  • (as opposed to, e.g. syntacticians, who look at made-up examples)


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Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Sees words, utterances not in isolation

  • But in relation to other utterances, etc.

  • All discourse seen as TEXTS to be read

  • In webs or networks of relations of power

  • Context specific

  • And the same language or concept can be used and interpreted in very different ways

  • Particularly concerned with language used in political speeches and the media

  • So not just context specific, but audience-specific

  • Though it has implications for individual language use: what words or phrases might we NOT use now that were acceptable 30 years ago?

  • E.g. terms considered racially derogatory, homophobic


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Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Sees language and discourse as social practice

  • And as productive of knowledge which maintains power

  • Not just a top-down operation of power

  • Power/Knowledge

  • CDA enables resistance by understanding power relations and their manifestation in discourse


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Case Study 1: Sharia Law in Britain

  • Sharia law: Islamic / Muslim law which basically (depending on your interpretation) is a moral and criminal code

  • Requires giving alms (aid) to the poor as a moral duty; that money loaned should not be subject to interest; that your savings at the end of the year (not income) should be taxed by 10% for the good of the community

  • Northern Rock? Sub-prime credit crisis?

  • Certain brands of Sharia provide for punishment for e.g. adultery

  • The most potent symbol of Sharia in British society is states like Sudan, Saudi Arabia (often ‘Western’-backed, with the exception perhaps of Iran) which cut off the hands of thieves, stone adulterers to death.

  • Though most scholars would agree that this is not the true intention of Sharia law, and is simply an authoritarian political system or state misusing the tenets of Sharia for social control

  • And … the Arabic proverb ‘ta’bash fi el’beit el’aumi, shauf’ (the weak sighted man in the house of the blind is he who sees best) – emblematic of Foucault’s riposte to the criticism that ‘no-one is outside discourse’ allowing for power/resistance within the confines of structure/agency

  • ‘Makes the people accountable to Allah through the Government, rather than the Government accountable to the people.’ (Price, field notes 2000)

  • Claim it is based on the Koran … but don’t forget the Christian Old Testament is full of smiting and stoning – ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.’

  • And: Tower of Babel … punishment for monolingualism


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What the Archbishop Said

  • From the text of Archbishop Williams’ lecture:

  • ‘Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law.  And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; ‘

  • ‘This lecture will not attempt a detailed discussion of the nature of sharia, which would be far beyond my competence; my aim is only, as I have said, to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thought about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom.’

  • ‘In this sense, while (as I have said) we are not talking about two rival systems on the same level, there is some community of understanding between Islamic social thinking and the categories we might turn to in the non-Muslim world for the understanding of law in the most general context.  There is a recognition that our social identities are not constituted by one exclusive set of relations or mode of belonging’

  • ‘Our social identities are not constituted by one exclusive set of relations or mode of belonging’ –almost Foucauldian or post-structrualist in its construction.

  • http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1575


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What the media said he said …

  • The Sun: Williams had "handed al-Qaida a victory“

  • The Express: he had "surrendered to fanatics"

  • Interesting use of metaphor:

  • ‘Victory’ … ‘Surrender’: metaphor of battle/war … why?

  • Implicitly: Al Qaida – adversary in the ‘war on terror’

  • Muslim ‘fanatics’ but British/US soldiers in Iraq = ‘Our Boys.’

  • The Daily Mail: ‘Ayatollah of Canterbury’ – suggesting ‘divided loyalties’

  • = traitor?

  • Archbishop Williams’ clearly did not propose the kind of dualism (duel-ism) which would form the basis of a ‘battle’


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Anchoring: using text with image

Framing: distorting what was said … in order to make it unassailable


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  • Use Sharia law on bike thieves, says MP Boris

  • First it was Liverpudlians, then Papua New Guineans and then Jamie Oliver. Now Boris Johnson has a new target in his sights - bicycle thieves. Fed up with having his bike stolen and wheel nuts taken, the outspoken Tory MP and cycling enthusiast wants to get tough on bike thieves.

    "I think these people deserve punishment and I'm calling for Sharia law for bicycle thieves."

    In the past, Johnson has accused Liverpool residents of 'wallowing' in grief after the death of Iraq hostage Ken Bigley, linked Papua New Guineans to cannibalism and said he would "get rid of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver" if he ever ran the country.

  • (Daily Mail - 16th March 2007)


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Case Study 2: Terrorists, Terrorism, and the War on Terror

  • the problem of extradition of terrorists has given us much anxiety. It has imposed constraints on the work of our Security Forces and courts in the United Kingdom

  • There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries … They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate. These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends … They stand against us, because we stand in their way ... We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism.

  • What we witnessed in London last Thursday week was not an aberrant act. It was not random. It was not a product of particular local circumstances in West Yorkshire … What we are confronting here is an evil ideology. It is not a clash of civilisations - all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it …

  • Who are the terrorists here?

  • Thatcher, 1978

  • Bush, 2001

  • Blair, 2005

  • (And how do/can we read this slide as a text?)


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More stuff …

  • Bush after 9/11

  • Bush and Steve Bridges


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Summary

  • PDA / CDA …

  • Overtly political in terms of its aims (Kress, 1990)

  • About framing of specific issues within specific discourses

  • Concerned with ‘representation’ of people, concepts, ideas (Stuart Hall ref) in particular ways that maintain (or challenge) asymmetrical power relations in society

  • Sees texts not just as individual words (and not even just words – pictures and symbols too) but as whole bodies of information which have internal power relations, as well as power relations with external texts and discourses

  • We can use CDA to identify the ways in which ideologies of hatred and prejudice are perpetuated

  • Thus, as individuals, we can formulate strategies of resistance!


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