The construction of ethnic identities in comic books : analysing the (re)presentation of Self and Others in 'The Adventures of Tintin'

Adibeik, Arezoo and Wodak, Ruth and Culpeper, Jonathan (2017) The construction of ethnic identities in comic books : analysing the (re)presentation of Self and Others in 'The Adventures of Tintin'. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis aims to raise awareness of the representations of Self and Others in a widely-distributed and controversial 20th -Century comic book series, Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin. It explores how selected character roles are constructed, especially regarding their function, ethnicity, and dispersion throughout different narrative plots in these comics. Specifically, the aim here is to create a systematic categorisation of the data by employing a narrative analysis and integrating it with other approaches to reveal the discursive construction of ethnic identities in comic books in general and the Tintin series, in particular. To achieve its objectives, this research primarily provides a detailed quantification of panels and speech bubbles in all 23 volumes of the Tintin series and categorises eleven different ethnic groups based on their visual and contextual cues. Such a quantitative analysis enables us to understand the propagation of each ethnic group while setting the ground to explore how Self and Others are represented and constructed in this series. To that end, this research identifies similar and/or repetitive patterns in the narrative structures of these comic books. In order to track such patterns and to answer my research questions, this study applies Propp’s (1928/1968) narrative analysis to disclose the discursive construction of ethnic identities, while synthesising the theoretical assumptions of the Discourse Historical Approach (DHA) (Reisigl and Wodak, 2001/2009) of CDS, as an overarching approach, it also draws on van Dijk’s (2008) strategies of positive-Self and negative Others presentation in his socio-cognitive approach. Additionally, it considers some relevant elements of van Leeuwen’s (2008) visual social actors network model in the analysis of images. The analyses include qualitative case studies from among various ethnic groups in the series (Europeans, Far-East Asians, sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans, and Jews), which demonstrates the visual and verbal stereotypes through selected texts. Thus, by combining detailed quantitative and qualitative methods, the analysis of each ethnic group reveals discrepancies in the ways character roles are constructed, including differences in both linguistic and visual features. The results show, surprisingly, that Europeans as in-groups are more frequently depicted as ‘villains’ than non-Europeans as out-groups, throughout the series, which can imply negative Self-presentation. Obviously, this does not mean that non-Europeans are represented in a positive way. There may be some complexities which are shown throughout the analysis chapters. An overall analysis of both Europeans and non-Europeans shows an interchangeable dynamic pattern regarding the strategies of positive vs. negative representations of Self and Others in different volumes. That is not the case for Jewish diaspora who do not share such dynamicity. In other words, throughout the series, they are stereotypically constructed in a negative way which supports the discriminatory and antisemitic ideologies in the Tintin series. This relates, I assume, to the socio-historical context of Belgium during the Second World War (1939-1945) and Hergé’s collaboration with the Nazi occupiers of Belgium.

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Thesis (PhD)
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06 Mar 2018 15:16
Last Modified:
02 Jul 2024 00:57