Saudis in the eyes of the other : A corpus-driven critical discourse study of the representation of Saudis on Twitter

Alanazi, Faizah and Gillen, Julia and Hardaker, Claire (2020) Saudis in the eyes of the other : A corpus-driven critical discourse study of the representation of Saudis on Twitter. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Despite an abundance of research on the representation of groups and minorities in traditional (mass) media, little work has focused on the representation of others on social media platforms, especially Twitter. More specifically, to the best of my knowledge, no study has yet approached the representation of Saudis on Twitter from a Critical-discourse and Corpus Linguistics perspective. Hence, the overall aim of this thesis is to investigate how Saudis are represented in tweets in English from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the United States and the rest of the world during two tragic events at Mecca in 2015 (the crane collapse at The Holy Mosque and the stampede at Mina). Unlike studies of media representation which focus on a one-to-many text context, the current study investigates the bottom-up discursive practices on social media, namely, the user-generated microblogging service, Twitter. The data comprise 89,928 tweets (1.9 million tokens) collected during the tragic events at Mecca starting from 10 September 2015 over a one-month period and including all English tweets mentioning Saudis. Drawing on theories from Critical Discourse Studies, the thesis deploys concepts and tools from the Discourse-historical approach and Systemic Functional Grammar. These are also supported by corpus-assisted methodologies to unravel the linguistic patterns associated with Saudis across five corpora. Integrating both quantitative and qualitative approaches substantiates the findings of the current study as well as enhance the synergy between Critical Discourse Studies and Corpus Linguistics approaches in examining social media texts, particularly Twitter data. The analysis revealed a hegemonic negative representation of Saudis across the corpora. Themes relating Saudis to war, terrorism and corruption are more prevalent than others. Constructing Saudis in relation to Islam and wealth (oil) triggers negative discourse prosody of extremism and corruption. Tweets about the tragic events at Mecca were generally condemning and reproachful. Additionally, comparing each corpus with others did not produced contradictory results, but rather triangulated the hegemonic, negative discourse recurring across the corpora, which sustains online racist and Saudiphobic discourse. These findings correspond remarkably to earlier findings identified in the analyses of representations of Muslims in Western media. The findings contribute to the ongoing academic discussion on the relationship between traditional media and social media regarding whether social media represent a largely safe space for maintaining and developing alternative discourses, or if it can mirror and reproduce existing hegemonic discourses, which may result in even stronger polarising effects on public discourse. In light of these findings, Twitter seems to serve as an online amplifier that mirrors and reinforces existing discourses in traditional media that are likely to have even stronger polarising effects on public discourse.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? critical discourse studies ??
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25 Sep 2020 09:10
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17 Jun 2024 23:29