Textual representations of migrants and the process of migration in selected South African media: a combined critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics study

Crymble, Leigh (2011) Textual representations of migrants and the process of migration in selected South African media: a combined critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics study. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




South Africa has long been associated with racial and ethnic issues surrounding prejudice and discrimination and despite a move post-1994 to a democratic ‘rainbow nation’ society, the country has remained plagued by unequal power relations. One such instance of inequality relates to the marginalisation of migrants which has been realised through xenophobic attitudes and actions, most notably the violence that swept across the country in 2008. Several reasons have been suggested in an attempt to explain the cause of the violence, including claims that migrants are taking ‘our jobs and our women’, migrants are ‘illegal and criminal’ and bringing ‘disease and contamination’ with them from their countries of origin. Although widely accepted that many, if not all, of these beliefs are based on ignorance and hearsay, these extensive generalisations shape and reinforce prejudiced ideologies about migrant communities. It is thus only when confronted with evidence that challenges this dominant discourse, that South Africans are able to reconsider their views. Williams (2008) suggests that for many South Africans, Africa continues to be the ‘dark continent’ that is seen as an ominous, threatening force of which they have very little knowledge. For this reason, anti-immigrant sentiment in a South African context has traditionally been directed at African foreigners. In this study I examine the ways in which African migrants and migrant communities, as well as the overall processes of migration, are depicted by selected South African print media: City Press, Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times. Using a combined Corpus Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis approach, I investigate the following questions: How are migrants and the process of migration into South Africa represented by these established newspapers between 2006 and 2010? Are there any differences or similarities between these representations? In particular, what ideologies regarding migrants and migrant communities underlie these representations? My analysis focuses on the landscape of public discourse about migration with an exploration of the rise and fall of the terminologies used to categorise migrants and the social implications of these classifications. Additionally, I analyse the expansive occurrences of negative representations of migrants, particularly through the use of ‘othering’ pronouns ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and through the use of metaphorical language which largely depicts these individuals as en masse natural disasters. I conclude that these discursive elements play a crucial role in contributing to an overall xenophobic rhetoric. Despite subtle differences between the three newspapers which can be accounted for based on their political persuasions and agendas, it is surprising to note how aligned these publications are with regard to their portrayal of migrants. With a few exceptions, this representation positions these individuals as powerless and disenfranchised and maintains the status quo view of migrants as burdens on the South African economy and resources. Overall, the newspaper articles contribute to mainstream dominant discourse on migrants and migration with the underlying ideology that migrants are responsible for the hardships suffered by South African citizens. Thus, this study contributes significantly to existing bodies of research detailing discourse on migrants and emphasises the intrinsic links between language, ideology and society.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:African migrants, Migration, Immigration, Marginization, Xenophobia, Print media, South Africa, Corpus Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English Language and Linguistics
ID Code:2813
Deposited By: Philip Clarke
Deposited On:18 May 2012 14:27
Last Modified:18 May 2012 14:27
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