A critical analysis of media discourse after a natural flooding disaster in Malawi, in 2015

Chikaipa, Victor (2018-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This is a multimodal critical discourse analysis study that investigates the media discursive strategies in the representation of the catastrophic flooding disaster of January 2015 in Malawi. It analyses the representation of social actors in local print and international online websites, investigating which discursive strategies are typically used to present the selected content, and what the overt and covert meanings are that visual and linguistic texts puts out to their respective implied audiences. The theoretical and analytical framework uses a combination of different approaches within CDA, specifically Fairclough’s (1992, 1995) dialectal relational approach, Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (1996, 2006) Grammar of Visual Design, and Van Leeuwen’s (2008) Social Actor Model. Using a multimodal approach, the study analyses articles purposively selected from a data corpus of 308 news articles that incorporated 313 news images gathered from two local Malawian print media, namely The Daily Times and The Nation, and two international online news websites, The Guardian and Daily Mail Online. The methodology is predominantly qualitative although some elements of quantitative paradigm were used to explain patterns, frequency and or volume of media coverage. The data is organised according to emerging themes, and the analysis is done by critical reading of the verbal and visual texts. The findings are that both the local and international media use discursive strategies that negatively represented the floods as destructive without due attention to the possible contribution of unsustainable agricultural activities of humans that are likely to have triggered or exacerbated the disaster and its effects. In addition, overlapping and interlocking discourses, namely humanitarian, hegemonic and expertise discourses, are evident of the dependencies in the global north – south divide. Further, there is a generic positive portrayal of the donor countries and non-profit organisations as effective and with agency, and at the same time a negative representation of the Malawian government and victims of the crisis as passive recipients of the relief aid. Although the multimodal analysis shows how the reporting upholds and perpetuates stereotypes of gender in the media representation of the disasters, this analysis established that there is minimal difference between ways in which men and women are portrayed by the local (insider) as compared to the international (outsider) media. This is significant considering another stereotype according to which the people of the UK are seen to be relatively liberal and sensitive to gender role casting as opposed to the African media that are seen be relatively conservative in subscribing to traditional gender role casting. Overall, the findings reveal that the media representation of the floods is not neutral; rather it is socially constructed with various ideological perspectives. The study contributes greatly to an understanding of the general linguistic and visual discursive tendencies that local print and international media use in the portrayal of participants in a flooding disaster that occurred in a relatively remote country such as Malawi. In addition, it fills a gap that exists in semiotics on the empirical studies that focus on the interplay between verbal texts and images in disaster representations in African contexts specifically, and in the global south more broadly.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie navorsing het binne die raamwerk van kritiese diskoersanalise strategieë ondersoek wat in multimodale nuusberigte gebruik is in verslagdoening vroeg in 2015 oor ‘n vloedramp na swaar reën in Malawi. Dit analiseer die manier waarop sosiale rolspelers in plaaslike koerante, sowel as in geselekteerde internasionale aanlyn nuusberigte, verbaal en in beeldmateriaal gekonstrueer word. Spesifieke aandag aan word gegee aan diskoersstrategieë kenmerkend van bepaalde soorte inhoude; ook die direkte en indirekte betekenisse wat visuele en talige tekste aan die onderskeie publikasies se verbeelde lesers voorhou, word ondersoek. Die teoretiese en analitiese raamwerk van die studie steun op verskillende benaderings tot kritiese diskoersanalise, spesifiek op Fairclough se (1992, 1995) dialekties-relasionele benadering, Kress en Van Leeuwen se (1996, 2006) “Grammar of Visual Design”, en Van Leeuwen se (2008) sosiale rolspeler model. ‘n Korpus van 308 nuusberigte wat 313 foto’s ingesluit het, het die data van die studie uitgemaak. Met aandag aan multimodaliteit (geskrewe teks en beelde wat gesamentlik die nuusitem uitmaak), is berigte gekies uit twee plaaslike Malawiese gedrukte koerante, The Daily Times en The Nation, en uit die webbladsye van twee internasionale koerante, te wete The Guardian en Daily Mail Online. Die metodologie is kwalitatief, alhoewel sekere elemente uit ‘n kwantitatiewe paradigma gebruik is om patrone, frekwensie van sekere items en die volume van die mediadekking uit te wys. Daar is bevind dat sowel die plaaslike as die internasionale media diskoersstrategieë gebruik wat die vloede negatief beskryf as destruktiewe elemente, sonder aandag aan die moontlike bydrae van nie-volhoubare landbou-aktiwiteite wat moontlik deur menslike handeling aan die gang gesit of vererger is. Verskillende diskoerse wat humanitêre, hegemoniese en kundigheidskwessies tematiseer, oorvleuel en bou op mekaar, in terme wat ‘n globale noord-suid verdeling bevestig. Lande en nie-wins organisasies wat hulp verleen word positief gekonstrueer as effektiewe weldoeners. Terselfdertyd word die Malawiese regering sowel as die slagoffers grootliks aangebied as passiewe ontvangers van noodhulp en toegifte. Alhoewel die multimodale analise uitwys hoe beriggewing oor natuurrampe gender stereotipes instandhou en verder uitbou, wys dit ook uit dat die karakterisering van plaaslike mans en vroue in plaaslike en internasionale nuus kwalik verskil. Dit is opvallend met inagneming van verdere stereotipes waarvolgens Britse joernaliste as relatief liberaal en sensitief t.o.v. gender rolverdelings sou wees, teenoor Afrika-media wat in hierdie verband getipeer word as konserwatief. Die studie wys veral uit dat mediaberigte oor natuurrampe soos vloede nie neutraal is nie; dit verteenwoordig verskillende ideologiese perspektiewe in die sosiale konstruksie van die ramp self, asook van die verskillende rolspelers. Deur aandag te gee aan die uitbeelding van ‘n vloedramp, die mense wat groot skade, verlies en trauma ly, sowel as die verskillende instansies wat ná die natuurramp hulp verleen in afgeleë dele van ‘n relatief onbekende land soos Malawi, dra hierdie navorsing by tot die uitbou van kennis oor algemeen taalwetenskaplike en visuele tendense in media diskoerse oor natuurrampe. Plaaslik en internasionale nuusagentskappe, gepubliseerde en virtueel berigte word in ag geneem. Die studie vul ‘n kennisgaping in die semiotiek deurdat dit die gebrek aan empiriese studies wat fokus op die wisselwerking tussen verbale tekste en beelde in die weergee van rampe in ‘n Afrika konteks spesifiek, en wyer, in die globale suide, uitwys en dan ook uitbou.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103773
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