At Arm's Length: Methods of Investigating Constructions of the 'Other' in American Disaster and Disease Reporting.

Potts, Amanda Rose Lanham (2013) At Arm's Length: Methods of Investigating Constructions of the 'Other' in American Disaster and Disease Reporting. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis is a corpus-based critical discourse analysis of social actor construal in media discourse of major American press publications, 1981-2009. Analysis is based upon two custom-collected corpora: a 36,736,679-word corpus of reporting on Hurricane Katrina, spanning approximately one year of coverage; and a 161,144,924-word corpus of AIDS/HIV reporting, published over the course of nearly three decades. I detail common attribution, argumentation, and predication strategies associated with the most frequent nomination strategies in both corpora, as well as investigating construal via topoi and metaphorical representation of actors and actions. Matched analyses are performed over the course of the thesis, enabling me to: a) uncover common characteristics of discourses of moral panic and risk society in both Katrina and AIDS/HIV reporting, and b) refine a generalizable method of analysing high-frequency items in large corpora varying in word count, diachrony, and topicality. To this end, I propose a reproducible method of downsampling results called proportional semantic collocation, by which a researcher might quantitatively determine salient categories of semantic preference for a given search term, and use these indicators for close, qualitative analysis. In close analyses of my corpora, shared discursive strategies and representation patterns characterised both people affected by Katrina and people with AIDS. These included: nearly total lack of agency; the construal of threat to the in-group, e.g. through the topos of numbers; and highly frequent association with additional othered groups (or 'deviancy doubling'). An additional pattern noted throughout the thesis has been identified as 'social sequestering', or a segregation of certain othered groups into risk or moral panic categories, typified by discourses creating distance or dissuading reader identification with these groups. In this way, major American newspaper publications are found to perpetuate an us/them dichotomy, encouraging social distance to protect the majority group from social panic.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2013.
?? miaapqlinguistics.rhetoric. ??
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02 May 2019 16:35
Last Modified:
02 Apr 2024 01:00