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Representations of Saudi Women in BBC News discourse: A corpus assisted critical intersectional study

Alshahrani, Zainah 2022. Representations of Saudi Women in BBC News discourse: A corpus assisted critical intersectional study. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Using a critical intersectional approach the study explores the complexity of Saudi gender identity in BBC news discourse. An intersectional approach is used to analyse representations of different (sub)categories of Saudi women and then compares them to other included interacting categories of Saudi men to critically highlight inequalities in representation. To conduct the analysis, a specialised corpus was created, and a mixed method approach to analyse language was designed. All BBC news reports on Saudi women published within the period 2008–18 were collected from the BBC website. It includes 178 articles comprising approximately 79,927 tokens. This timeframe was selected as it includes important events and decisions that caused changes in the social and political gender roles and positions in Saudi society during that period. To analyse the language of the corpus and extracted texts, analytical tools from corpus linguistics and a social actors approach to intersectionality are combined in the analysis. Exhaustive analysis of the data produced interesting results which are argued to be an original contribution to knowledge. It is found that, besides the main dimensions of gender and nationality, which are predicted from search terms referring to Saudi Women, Islam emerged as a central dimension of Saudi intersectional identity. In addition, while a micro-linguistic analysis reveals a neutral and/or positive discourse prosody (Stubbs, 2001, pp. 65–66) for Islam when it occurs separately, the intersectional investigation exposes a negative discourse prosody when it intersects with nationality. In terms of gender categories and sub-categories, besides the general category of Saudi women, seven unequally represented sub-categories of men and women are proposed and explored. Intersectional representations of social categories involve a mix of selected social features and linguistic features. These, in turn, create inequalities between these subcategories in discourse with different hierarchical positions within the represented social structure. The general category of Saudi women is represented as covered, dominated and oppressed by the dominant intersectional matrix of Islam, patriarchy and nationality. The female activists subcategory is located in discourse in higher position compared to female political figures, who are marginalised and passivated in the data; the female trendsetters are also positioned higher than other female subcategories. Another key finding is that hegemonic relationships, both internally amongst male subcategories and externally between men and women, are created in the co-text. For instance, male clerics who are represented as dominating and politically powerful in a specific context are represented as dominated and oppressed by the royal males subcategory in another context. As well as the theoretically-informed empirical findings noted above, the theoretical and methodological design applied to explore Saudi women’s identity can also be considered an original contribution. The analysis and results prove the success of the theoretical and methodological framework designed to investigate and interpret the complexity of Saudi gender representations in the context of the Other, that of BBC news discourse. The study therefore demonstrates the value of intersectionality as a theory and a method of analysis in the field of language and discourse studies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 September 2022
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2023 01:30

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