Friday, December 05, 2008


It's been a while since I last wrote here. There have been some (serious?) ups and downs as usual but on the other hand, I have managed to finalise some of my papers -mainly from the RASIM project. Here they are and please let me know if you would like to have the ones which are not available online or in print yet.

KhosraviNik, M. (2009, forthcoming) The representation of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in British newspapers: A Critical Discourse Analysis. Journal of Language and Politics, Vol 8 (3).

KhosraviNik, M. (2008) British newspapers and the representation of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants between 1996 and 2006. Centre for Language in Social Life Working papers. Lancaster University. (

KhosraviNik, M. (forthcoming) The Representation of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in British newspapers during the Balkan conflict (1999) and the British general election (2005). Under review in Journal of Discourse & Society.

KhosraviNik, M. & Polyzou, A. (Eds) (2008) Papers from the Lancaster University postgraduate conference in Linguistics and language teaching: Vol 2: Papers from LAEL PG 2007. Lancaster University. (

Baker, P., Gabrielatos C., KhosraviNik, M., Krzyzanowski, M., McEnery, T. & Wodak, R. (2008). A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press. Discourse & Society 19(3), 273-305. (

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Paper in 'Discourse and Society'

I had already written on the pros and cons of merging Corpus Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis here. Some parts of that draft was also incorporated in a paper by the RASIM team for the Journal of Discourse & Society. The paper is an attempt to show how such a merger can be implemented in researching group representations -here refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in British newspapers- and how various levels of theory, research design and analysis can take on a mixture of CDA qualitative and CL quantitative approaches.

This paper is now published in the latest volume of 'Discourse & Society' and can be downloaded through Lancaster University e-journal collection here. Please let me know if you cant access it through this service and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Edward Said (1), Orientalism: Role of Discourse, Native Informants, Nafisi, Anti-Semitism: Jews & Muslims, Representations of Arabs & Islam

Discourses of Orientalism, Racism, Clonialism, Imperialism, Western cultural hegemonies, ‘modernism’, Globalisation, Classic European Anti-Semitism and modern Anti-Islamism all share implicit or explicit assumptions of ‘superiority’ in one way or another.


Edward Said’s “Orientalism” broadly speaking is a critical analysis of colonial ideology in Western literary texts. Said’s unimaginably vast knowledge of literary texts, colonial history, geopolitics, his powerful and yet accurate language, and most importantly his critical reading of classic literary texts have made it a huge influential scholarly book which impacts not only contemporary studies on middle east and ‘Orient’ but it sets a framework for critical works in post structuralism, anti-colonialism, and anti-imperialism.

Having a broad notion of CDA as an approach, “Orientalism” can -probably arguably for some- be classified as a “CDA study” in deconstructing and analyzing how a macro ideology –orientalism- has been (or still is) incorporated into literary texts and how such an ideology has been affecting the ‘oriental’ scholars while at the same time being the immediate effect of their scholarship. The book is heavy on theory of ‘orientalism’ and explaining the historical, political and social contexts which have been nurturing and at the same time arising from the systematic reinforcement of the Orientalist views in ‘western’ literary 'master pieces'. However Said goes beyond a purely theoretical account and integrates his analysis of the macro-structure of ideologies interwoven in the literary texts with in-depth analyses of several extracts from various texts (e.g. analysing discursive strategies of positive self presentation and negative other presentation; argumentative strategies of “Othering” of Islam and ‘West’ on page 235-7 and examples of text analysis of representation of Islam as represented in Cambridge History of Islam on page 302-5).

These two elements: setting the socio-political/historical context and analysing the texts are the two main elements of a critical discourse analysis. Said maintains that; “As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, judgement, will-to-truth, and knowledge. The Orient existed for the West, or so it seemed to countless Orientalists, whose attitudes to what they worked on was either paternalistic or candidly condescending- unless, of course, they were antiquarians, in which case the “classical” Orient was a credit to them and not to the lamentable modern Orient.” (204).

He maintains that there has hardly been any compatible number of books written on ‘Occident’ than the Orientalist books (60000! books dealing with Near Orient were written between 1800 to 1950) and even those written about the Occident were on ‘learning from their superiorities’!. Such an imbalance in ‘culture product factory’ of the West would naturally bring about a hegemonic power which in turn creates a structure of understandings, and knowledge which is basically “imagined truth”.

“Every one of them [Orientalists] kept intact the separateness of the Orient, its eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability; this is why every writer on the Orient, from Renan to Marx (ideologically speaking), or from the most rigorous scholars (Lane and Sacy) to the most powerful imaginations (Flaubert and Nerval), saw the Orient as a locale requiring Western attention, reconstruction, even redemption. The Orient existed as a place isolated from the mainstream of European progress in the sciences, arts, and commerce. Thus whatever good or bad values were imputed to the Orient appeared to be functions of some highly specialized Western interest in the Orient” (206).

“Orientalist provides his own society with representations of the orient (a) that bear his distinctive imprint, (b) that illustrate his conception of what the orient can or ought to be, (c) that consciously contest someone else’s view of the orient, (d) that provide Orientalist discourse with what, at that moment, it seems most in need of, and (e) that respond to certain cultural professional, national, political, and economical requirements of the epoch” (273).

Discourse or 'System of Knowledge'
Said, of course considers the crucial element in proliferation of the ideology differently from what is referred to as “discourse” among CDA researchers. He considers language as one element of such hegemonic characterisation. However, this may easily be a discrepancy in terminology as is seen in many adjacent disciplines. Said argues that;

“Orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imaginary, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West (Orientalism 1978:5)”

A “discourse” in its broadest sense can also be defined as any system of symbolic communication which belongs to the semiotics of human interaction. This, in turn, can go beyond the ‘verbal language’ per se and include any other modality of communication.

He maintains that orientalism is “a system of knowledge about orient, an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness (6)”. He tends to ignore –or not care to notice- that the apparatus of such a transformation is ‘language and discourse’ for the only means through which such “knowledge” or “understanding” (ideology) can be acquired and proliferated is discourse as in texts.

He focuses on the ‘system of power’ as a main object of analysis in his approach towards Orientalism and maintains that;

“My whole point about this system [of Orientalism] is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence…but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economical setting. In other words, representations have purposes, they are effective much of the time, they accomplish one or many tasks” (273)

Said, at some other parts emphasizes a linguistic analysis as a methodology, the type similar to what one may find in linguistic departments and argues that his analysis focuses on “evidence” which can be “found just as prominently in the so-called truthful text (histories, philological analyse, political treatises) as in avowedly artistic (i.e. openly imaginative) text.”(21).

“The things to look at are style, figure of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances, not the correctness of the representation nor its fidelity to some great original” (21).

He separates the notion of the “truth” and ‘representations’ of it and believes that ‘representations’ created through language are the subject matter of studies. He accentuates the role of ‘language’ and argues that “language itself is a highly organized and encoded system, which employs many devices to express, indicate, exchange messages and information, represent and so forth” (21) while maintaining that language is the first container and medium of such representation which then pours into culture, institutions, and political ambience.

“We must be prepared to accept that a representation is eo ipso implicated, intertwined, embedded, interwoven with a great many other things besides the “truth”, which is itself a representation” (272)

On the relationship of language and ideology he maintains:

“It [language] brings opposites together as “natural”, it presents human types in scholarly idioms and methodologies, it ascribes reality and reference to objects (other words) of its own making. Mythic language is discourse, that is, it cannot be anything but systematic; one does not really make discourse at will, or statement in it, without first belonging- in some cases unconsciously, but at any rate involuntarily- to the ideology and the institutions that guarantee its existence….The principle feature of mythic discourse is that it conceals its own origins as well as those of what it describes.” (321)

He argues for a study like his, one needs to look at different sources of data;

“Therefore I set out to examine not only scholarly works but also works of literature, political tracts, journalistic texts, travel books, religious and philosophical studies and anthropological given that I believe all texts to be worldly and circumstantial in (of course) ways that vary from genre to genre, and from historical period to historical period” (23)

Anti-Semitism: Representation of Islam and Orientalism
He reminds us the common roots of Semites as Arabs and Jews and emphasizes the commonalities in the process of negativisation which occurred to both groups in old Orientalist works;

“by an almost inescapable logic, I have found myself writing the history of a strange, secret sharer of Western anti-Semitism. That anti-Semitism and, as I have discussed in its Islamic branch, Orientalism resemble each other very closely is a historical, cultural, and political truth that needs only to be mentioned to an Arab Palestinian for its irony to be perfectly understood.” (28).

Said discusses the historical inglorious contributions of philology and linguistic studies in development of discriminatory classifications of Orientals and Semites and argues that Semitic as a branch of Orient “was not fully a natural object-like a species of monkey, for example- nor fully an unnatural or a divine object [this goes back to the religious arguments that consider the origins of all languages to be traced back to one single language and that idea also contributed to some hideous classification of languages and their values based on how close or far they are from the root in linguistic family tree which in turn poured out and generalized to superiority or inferiority of people speaking those languages too] as it has once been considered. Rather Semitic occupied a median position, legitimated in its oddities (regularity being defined by Indo-European) by an inverse relation to normal languages, comprehended as an eccentric, quasi-monstrous phenomenon..” (141).

He mainly draws on Renan writings in which “Semites are rabid monotheists who produced no mythology, no art, no commerce, no civilisation; their consciousness is a narrow and rigid one; …At the same time Renan wants in understood that he speaks of a prototype not a real Semitic type with actual existence (although he violated this too by discussing present-day Jews and Muslims with less than scientific detachment in many places in his writings) (143).

"Renan’s whole treatise on the Semitic branch of the Oriental languages goes very far to show is comparative; Indo-European is taken as the living, organic norm, and Semitic Oriental languages are seen comparatively to be inorganic (143).

Said distinguishes modern Orientalism (120) from its older versions in that it relies not on religious differences but on other secular elements of classification e.g. culture, innate characters, customs and argues that "modern Orientalism derives from secularizing elements in eighteenth century European culture" (120). This is similar to the distinction of Barker (1981) of old versus new racism with the old version relying strictly on “race” (as in a genetic difference) as a point of classification while the “new” version finds the reference to “race” very callus and politically incorrect and rely on race-free elements e.g. culture, costumes, in the exactly same way as old/new Orientalism. That is, the role of religion in Orientalism and that of Race in Racism carry similar functions.

Again similar to all the discussion on old/new racism Said maintains that the shift from religion to other elements for classificatory practices does not mean that “religion” has fully been abandoned in European categorisation and characterisation of the Orient but “far from it: they [old religious patterns] were reconstructed, redeployed, redistributed in secular frameworks just enumerated” (121).

“my thesis is that the essential aspects of modern Orientalist theory and praxis (from which present-day Orientalism derives) can be understood, not as a sudden access of objective knowledge about Orient, but as a set of structures inherited from the past, secularized, redisposed, and re-formed by such disciplines as philology, which in turn were naturalized, modernized, and laicized substitutes for (or versions of) Christian supernaturalism” (122).

He accounts for the similar roots of anti-Semitic ideologies –referring to both Jewish and Muslims- “which had its origins in the so-called ancient-Semitic field pioneered by Renan” (262). However, the sees a shift in the Orientalist fields of study and argues that

“whereas it is no longer possible to write (learned or even popular) disquisitions on either “the Negro mind” or the Jewish personality”, it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as “the Islamic mind” or “the Arab character”” (262).

He maintains that other Orientalist disciplines e.g. African studies, East Asian studies have stopped encapsulating the wholesome label for the subject matter of their studies and avoid talking about, let’s say’ an “African mind” while in even in the contemporary academia there exist “such thing as an Islamic society, an Arab mind, an Oriental psyche” Moreover, the study of contemporary Islam and Muslim communities and countries does not adopt a synchronic –hence objective- perspective even scholars whose specialty is supposedly the ‘modern’ Islamic world “anachronistically use the texts like the Koran to read into every facet of contemporary Egyptian or Algerian society. Islam, or seventh-century ideal of it constituted by the Orientalists, is assumed to posses the unity that eludes the more recent and important influence of colonialism, imperialism, and even ordinary politics. Clichés about how Muslims (or Mohammedans, as they are still sometimes called) behave are bandied about with a nonchalance no one would risk in talking about blacks or Jews.” (262).

This is obviously directly and indirectly influencing the public discourse among non academic circles of society i.e. TV when thinking and discussing matters related to Arabs or Muslims which in turn would promote a stereotypical uniform patterns of behaviour and characterisations among people in Islamic countries. That is a large group of people are talked about, thought about, and obviously judged about primarily in terms of their religion rather than their individuality. This is what exactly isnot happening for the powerful Christian world and is rightfully deemed to be an immoral and wrong approach when it comes to be about Jews or Blacks or any other less powerful communities. Atrocities against ‘Jews’ (climaxing in Nazism and Holocaust) and ‘blacks’ (during slavery and after its official abolishment) happened to become two historical epoch entangled with shame and embarrassment for humanity that are still relevant –may be even more than before-; lessons learned in the hardest way.

Native Informants and Orientalism; Nafisi’s ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran”
In such a scenario the Orientalist, uniform categorisation and characterisation of the Orientals (Arabs and Muslims here) intertwined with cultural hegemonies and political, economical and military superiority on one hand and absence of an organic home grown literature from within these areas and conquest of commercial TV and franchised entertainment services leave no room for any original narration while at the same time the hegemony of monolithic representation prevents minor attempts or will subliminally be defined in terms of the current hegemonic Orientalist structure which is already in place and become what Said calls “native informant”(301); an Orientalist from within.

Discourses of Orientalism, Racism, imperialism, Western cultural hegemonies, ‘modernism’, globalisation, and classic anti-Semitism (Jewish) and modern Anti-Islamism all share implicit or explicit assumptions of ‘superiority’ based in one way or another.

Said maintains that Orientalism –not in its classical from necessarily- continues to reincarnate in various ideologies “despite its failure, its lamentable jargon, its scarcely concealed racism, its paper-thin intellectual apparatus”(322).

He warns against native informants as the new mode of fuel for Orientalist ideology as “indeed there is reason for alarm in the fact that its [Orientalism] influences has spread to “the orient” itself; the pages of books and journals in Arabic (and doubtless in Japanese, various Indian dialects, and other oriental languages) are filled with second-order analyses by Arabs of “the Arab mind”, “Islam” and other myths. Orientalism has also spread in the United States now that Arab money and resources has added considerable glamour to the traditional “concern” felt for the strategically important Orient. The fact is that Orientalism has been successfully accommodated to the new imperialism, where its ruling paradigms do not contest, and even confirm, the continuing imperial design to dominate Asia” (322?)

While discussing the new demand for some ‘native’ account of the life from within the Arab countries particularly Iraq he provides an example of how a mediocre book may suddenly get an ample attention and celebration for it fits well in what the hegemonic ideological structure deems to be in demand;

“Typically The Republic of Fear appeared in 1989, unnoticed. Its author later became a celebrity not because his book makes a scholarly contribution-he does not pretend otherwise- but because its obsessive and monochromatic ‘portrait’ of Iraq perfectly suits the need for dehumanized, ahistorical, and demonological representation of a country as the embodiment of an Arab Hitler.” (Culture and Imperialism 1993:368)

Hamid Dabashi in his article “Native informer and the making of American empire” Similarly maintains that the new mode of imperialism has changed from domination on the actual space to domination of public space. He draws on the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negry Empire (2000) who argue that “the classical case of imperialism had now mutated into an imperial mode of domination, corresponding to cultural, social and economic globalisation, a mode that is in fact rooted in American constitutionalism” (1).

He emphasizes in a system of cultural and consensual manufacturing of the empire (which essentially needs to be discursive by the way) there seem to be a general amnesia accompanied by creating and instigating a collective memory –a macro structure of network of information along with a set of argumentative strategies in manufacturing a new Orientalist view of the case in question; Iran.

“A particularly powerful case of such selective memories is now fully evident in an increasing body of memoire by people from an Islamic background that has over the last half a decade, ever since the commencement of its “War on Terrorism”, flooded the US market. This body of literature perhaps best represented by Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), ordinarily points to legitimate concerns about the plight of Muslim women in the Islamic world and yet put that predicament squarely at the service of the US ideological psy-op, militarily stipulated in the US global warmongering.” (2).

Dabashi uses a very strong language (calling Nafisi a ‘comprador intellectual’) and believes that Nafisi’s book is “partially responsible for cultivating the US (and by extension the global) public opinion against Iran”

“The publication of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran coincided with the most belligerent period in recent US history, the global flexing of its military muscles, and as such the text has assumed a proverbial significance in the manner in which native informers turned comprador intellectuals serve a crucial function in facilitating public consent to imperial hubris. With one strike, Azar Nafisi has achieved three simultaneous objectives; (1) systematically and unfailingly denigrating an entire culture of revolutionary resistance to a history of savage colonialism; (2) doing so by blatantly advancing the presumed cultural foregrounding of a predatory empire; and (3) while at the very same time catering to the most retrograde and reactionary forces within the United States, waging an all out war against a pride of place by various immigrant communities and racialised minorities seeking curricular recognition on university campuses and in the American society at large.” (2).

He argues that Nafisi’s account of Iran and Iranian women is ahistorical and mono-chronological, it presented an account of systematic abuse of legitimate causes and more importantly “through the instrumentality of English literature, recycled and articulated by an “Oriental” woman who deliberately casts herself as a contemporary Scheherazade [a huge intertextuality intended here!], it seeks to provoke the darkest concerns of the Euro-American Oriental fantasies and thus neutralise competing site of cultural resistance to the US imperial designs both at home and abroad”.

“As all other acts of propaganda and disinformation, Reading Lolita in Tehran is predicated on an element of truth. The Islamic Republic of Iran has an atrocious record of stifling, silencing, and outright murdering secular intellectuals, while systematically and legally creating a state of gender apartheid. But the function of the comprador intellectual is not to expose and confront such atrocities; instead, it is to take that element of truth and package it in a manner that serves the belligerent empire best; in the disguise of a legitimate critic of localised tyranny facilitating the operation of a far more insidious global dominations -effectively perpetuating (indeed aggravating) the domestic terror they purport to expose.” (3).

He maintains that many significant aspects of ‘an Iranian life’ has been deliberately unexplored and uncovered in Nafisi’s contemporary novel and as such the ‘imagined Iran’ or representation of Iran in her novel is deficient in many ways.

“No one will ever know, reading Reading Lolita in Tehran that Iranians, like all other nations, have a literature of their own, a constellation of women writers, poets, artists, activists, and scholars second to none, that they are survivors and dreamers in terms not just global to their geopolitics but also domestic to their own perils and promises, and that in the span of the same period of time (the 1990s) that Azar Nafisi designed to live in Iran and sought to save the soul of a nation by teaching a privileged few among them “Western Classics” Iranians had produced a glorious cinema that has captivated the globe in awe and admiration, produced a feminist press and literature rarely matched in any other country, and elected more women to their parliament than those in the United States” [!] (5).

He emphasizes on the influential role of an account like that of Nafisi coming from within the Orient and yet tapping on classic Orientalist elements knowingly or unknowingly; “The comprador intellectual speakes with the voice of authority, nativity, Orientalised oddity. He is from “there” and she “knows what she is talking about”, and thus their voices carry the authority of a native informer”(7).

Orientalism: Representation of Arabs and Islam
In discussing the prescriptive, top down representation of Islam and Muslims Said discusses Gibb’s thoughts on Islam and his book; ‘Mohammedanism; An Historical Survey’ and picks on the title of the book calling the religion ‘Mohammedanism’ rather than Islam. He draws on Gibbs self indulged logics (rather than backed by evidence) in calling the religion Mohammedanism while “no Muslim would call himself a Mohammedan, nor so far as in known would he necessarily feel the importance of law over theology (reason Gibbs provides for his way of referencing to Islam) (280), and the same is true with Gibb’s other categorisations and impositions of his own definitions on researching Orient e.g. “oriental philosophy had never appreciated the fundamental idea of justice in Greek philosophy” (Gibbs)

Said traces back the representations of Islam and Arabs to present day and the impacts of socio-political events (e.g. Israeli-Arab war) on their representations and widespread stereotyping which consequently occurred.

“Yet after 1973 war the Arab appeared everywhere as some thing more menacing. Cartoons depicting Arabs sheik standing behind a gasoline pump turned up consistently. These Arabs, however, were clearly “Semitic”; their sharply hooked noses, the evil moustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non-Semitic population) that “Semites” were at the bottom of all “our” troubles, which in this case was principally a gasoline shortage. The transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same” (286).

The strong negative stereotypes of “Arabs” in the films and TV associates them “with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversexed degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low. Slave trader, camel driver, moneychanger, colourful scoundrel: these are some traditional Arab roles in the cinema”.

In line with the strategies of ‘collectivisation in newsreels or news photos “the Arab is always shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences. Most of the pictures represent mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures.” (287).

He goes on providing very explicit evidence of the racist and stereotypical representation of Arab and Islam in American course books even in so called scholarly research papers e.g. Moore Berger 1967 “Middle Eastern and North African Studies; Developments and Needs” are instances of some kind of reproduction of older classic Orientalist representations with large quantities of negativity and hostility added.

He argues that the new Orientalist attention paid to Arabs has a unique character in its being devoid of literary works which is imposed upon the Arab representation. “the net effect of this remarkable omission is to keep the region and its people conceptually emasculated, reduced to “attitudes”, “trends”, statistics; in short dehumanized” (291).

Said maintains that Orientalist negitivisation, categorisation which assumes an essential supremacy on the part of West, after the second world war becomes primarily focused on Muslims and Arabs and Zionist discourse after adopting a “quasi-Occidental” (306) mentality started to reproduced the classic Orientalist racist characterisation against Arabs.

He provides examples from Balfour and Zerimann as adopting an Orientalist perspective against Palestinian in assuming essential superiority and inferiority on the parts of Jews and Arabs respectively and relating this notion to inherent qualities. He maintains that “orientalism governs Israeli policy towards the Arabs throughout” (306) “its [classic anti-Semitic ideology inclusive of Arabs and Jews] central argument is the myth of the 'arrested development' of the Semites. From this Matrix other myths pour forth, each of them showing the Semite to be the opposite of Westerner and irremediably the victim of his own weaknesses. By a concatenation in the Zionist movement; one Semite went the way of Orientalism, the other, the Arab, was forced to go the way of Oriental” (307)

Said, E. (1978) Orientalism. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. London.
Said, E. (1993) Culture and Imperialism. Random House. London.
Nafisi, A. (2003) Reading Lolita in Tehran. Random House.
Dabashi, H. ‘ Native informers and the making of the American empire’ Al-Ahram Weekly. 1-7 June 2006, Issue No 797. Last retrieved on 30 October 2007.(

Edward Said (2): CDA, Imperialism, and Historical Contextualisation

“Western imperialism and Third World nationalism feed off each other”
Edward Said (Culture and Imperialism; xxvii)

CDA, Imperialism, 'Us' vs. 'Them' constructions
Culture and Imperialism is a strong account of more contemporary cultural hegemony and the making of American empire by controlling and defining virtual geographies of people’s mentalities and cultural perceptions rather than the more traditional occupation of actual geographies. Needless to say that from a CDA point of view all these more recent cultural controls have an inherent and indispensible discursive characteristic and control over cultural understanding and the distribution of “information” are primarily –if not exclusively- practiced through some sort of symbolic communication and of course its more classic and common notion; control over the production, distribution over “language” and its apparatus: mass media. Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism may not care to adopt terminologies similar to that of CDA but the notions and arguments can not be put forward without similar logics and conceptualisations of CDA studies.
Regarding imperialism he argues that “at some very basic level, imperialism means thinking about, settling on, controlling land that you do not posses, that is distant, that is lived on and owned by others” (5)

“‘imperialism’ means the practices, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory; ‘colonialism’ which is always a consequence of imperialism, the implanting of settlements on distant territory. As Michael Doyle puts it: ‘Empire is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of establishing or maintaining an empire’” (8)

"Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Both are supported and perhaps even impelled by impressive ideological formations that include notions that certain territories and people require and beseech domination as well as forms of knowledge affiliated with domination: vocabulary of nineteenth-century culture is plentiful with such words as concepts as ‘inferior’ or subject races’ subordinate peoples’, ‘dependency’, expansions’, and’ authority’.” (8)

In the discussion on how the 'imagined' societies are created and maintained he emphsizes the role of ‘narratives’ in the process;

“The nations are narrations. The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them. Most important, the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilized people in colonial world to rise up and throw off imperial subjections; in the process, many European and Americans were also stirred by these stories and their protagonists and they too fought for new narratives of equality and human community” (Culture and Imperialism xiii)

Yet he maintains that these identities should never be classified in binary or either/or categories although “Western imperialism and Third World nationalism feed off each other” as to extreme ends of such identities, yet even “at their worst they are neither monolithic nor deterministic, besides, culture is not monolithic either, and is not the exclusive property of East or West, or of small groups of men or women.” (xxvii)

On a similar note he argues that such binary classifications as a modernistic product are gone now and the changes in monolithic approaches towards Orient with Orientalist mentality and uni-directional anti imperialistic nationalism or “Nativism”. Such an assumption is widely open to controversies as the more recent dichotomous binaries seem to have reproduced themselves once more –after the first world wide round of nationalist movements in the colonial world resulting in colonized countries to gain their independence- in the form of construction of ‘national identities’ with sharp emphasis on ‘confrontation’ and aggression where one side of the equation seem to be US (or the West as one single entity!) and countries of “south”. Examples include Iran vs. US as an official political standoff among an even increasing social “resistance” in several other Middle Eastern countries, and some countries with “anti-imperialistic”, “nativist” ideologies in South America and Africa.

Said maintains that the mechanism of authority and power has changed recently and argues that;

“Gone are the binary oppositions dear to nationalist ad imperialist enterprise. Instead we begin to sense that old authority cannot simple be replaced by new authority, but that new alignments made across borders, types, nations, and essences are rapidly coming into view, and it is those new alignments that now provoke and challenged the fundamentally static notion of identity that has been the core of cultural thought during the era of imperialism.” (xxiii)

He talks about the classic “us” versus “them” categorisation based on what constitutes “us” and them and yet maintains that “all cultures are involved in one another; none is single and pure, all are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated, and unmonolithic” He maintains that this is as true for contemporary United States as it is of modern Arab world and criticises the fact that some nativist and “nationalist” anti colonial discourses tap on creation of a narration of monolithic identity whose core element is being anti imperialistic (e.g. official discourse of Iran right after 1979 revolution and the recent turn of the ‘neo revolutionary' discourse of Ahmadinejad’s discourse)

He criticises that on the other side of the spectrum also the ‘nationalist’ and ‘nativist’ discourses tap on dichotomisation of “us” vs “them” in postcolonial world and dismisses that “defensive, reactive, and even paranoid nationalism is, alas, frequently woven into the very fabric of education, where children as well as older students are taught to venerate and celebrate the uniqueness o their traditions (usually and invidiously at the expense of others)”(xxix)
He maintains that the supremacist ideologies are not tolerated in any form and that is why the “white” masters were challenged and subsequently were driven out of colonies after which a strong nativist discourse prevailed which emphasized on independence and local resources with ostensibly harsh and aggressive tone (similar to Iran’s revolution and its strong anti imperialistic discourses, denouncing dependence on any foreign power with a strong discourse of “self-sufficiency”, closing off the borders and getting rid of any evidence of “foreign powers” presence in the country be it, in economy, art, literature, politics, or life style and returning back to more traditional local ways of life and structure, the same theme incorporated by Gandhi in terms of turning away from the empire and relying on local modes of life and commerce-which of course was not supported by political leaders of independent India like Nehro but was pretty much an important launching platform of anti colonial movement towards independence of India)

Izadi and Saghaye-Biria (2007) try to frame and categorise of the Orientalist elements in discourses against Iran and its nuclear energy ambitions in American press. They try to incorporate some elements of quantification with some -half hearted- discourse analysis which in turn does not seem to make their case very well particularly as far as an actual ‘discourse analysis is concerned. However, it opens up to a critical literature concerning Iran as the article is particularly rich in covering theories and accounting for the socio-political contextualisation of the case of Iran.

They draw on Heiss 2000 in their literature review where he discusses the role of Orientalism in the Us-Iran relationship during Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq of Iran in 1950s and argue that;

“ Iran was the first country to struggle to gain control of its oil industry. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, renamed The British Petroleum Company in 1954, was Britain’s largest overseas investment (British Petroleum Company, n.d.). According to Heiss (2000), “the end result of the Orientalization of Mossdeq was an increasingly rigid Anglo- American position on the oil crisis that eschewed compromise or concessions and ultimately saw removing him from office as the only acceptable course of action” (p184). Ultimately, the Anglo-American coup in Iran in 1953, which toppled Mosaddeq, brought back the Shah after he was deposed and enabled Western companies to regain control of Iranian oil (Gasiorowski & Byrne 2004).” (Izadi and Saghaye- Biria 2007)

Said, however, dismisses a purely ‘nativist’ approach and finds such an approach very reactionary and not productive in a long run as he maintains that “conversely the triumphant natives soon enough found [and some did not!] that they needed the West and that the idea of total independence was a nationalist fiction designed mainly for what Fanon calls ‘nationalist bourgeoisie’ who in turn often ran the new countries with a callous, exploitative tyranny reminiscent of the departed masters” (20) Similarly in another section he maintains that “ After years of supporting for anti-colonial struggles in Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Palestine, Iran which came to represent for many Western intellectuals their deepest engagement in the politics and philosophy of anti-imperialist decolonization, a moment of exhaustion and disappointment was reached. One began to bear and read how futile it was to support revolutions, how barbaric were the new regimes that came to power, how-this is an extreme case- decolonization had benefited ‘world communism’” (30)

Said; Historical contextualisation and Interdiscursivity

Said accentuates the role history and lay out of the historical contexts in order to understand and analyze the ideologies of orientalism, colonialism, and imperialism and their contra theories while maintaining that no discourse can be understood fully if it is not juxtaposed among the neighbouring discourses. (72)

Quite similar to CDA text analysis he maintains that in reading a text “one must open it out both to what went into it and to what it author excluded. Each cultural work is a vision of a moment, and we must juxtapose that vision with the various revisions it later provoked….We must connect the structures of a narrative to the idea, concepts, experiences from which it draws support…There is no such a thing as a direct experience, or reflection, of the world in the language of a text.” (79)

He uses the terms ‘narratives’ and ‘discourses’ in a rather confused way and at times interchangeably while due to his expert field of study he places a centrality on the role of ‘novel’ and argues that novels played a central role in constructing the authoritative repertoire of imperialism and vice versa;

“Without empire, I would go as far as saying, there is no European novel as we know it, and indeed if we study the impulses giving rise to it, we shall see the far from accidental convergence between the patterns of narrative authority constitutive of the novel on one hand, and on the other, a complex ideological configuration underlying the tendency to imperialism… The novel is fundamentally tied to bourgeois society” (82)

While scholars seem to agree that ideologies are reproduced and redefined in the language, there seem to be less solid scholarly work to show that “correction” in the language and discourse can “fix” and change the ideologies widespread in the society. Said also deals with the same criticism that discourse analysts sometimes face, that is to aks if discourse and language is the mere cause of the ideologies. Similarly Said dismisses the idea that novels are the only element in creating an ideology while he accentuates the role of language and control of the discourse in qualities of the ideologies at work;

“I am not trying to say that the novel- or the culture in the broad sense- ‘caused’ imperialism, but that the novel, as a cultural artefact of bourgeois society, and imperialism are unthinkable without each other. Of all the major literary forms, the novel is the most recent, its emergence the most datable, its occurrence the most Western, its normative pattern of social authority the most structured; imperialism and the novel fortified each other to such a degree that it is impossible, I would argue, to read one without in some way dealing with the other” (84)

“The capacity to represent, portray, characterize, and depict is not easily available to just any member of just any society; moreover, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in the representation of ‘things’, while allowing for considerable individual freedom, are circumscribed and socially regulated….representation itself has been characterized as keeping the subordinate subordinate and inferior inferior” (95).

He gives examples of changes in policy of representation of women and 'other' races in order to shape and mend the negative or inferior representations of them as successful examples of such “surgical” practice; evidence to support that representations through any system of symbolisation among them linguistic (discourse, language, novels) matter significantly.

The same argument is put forward is CDA studies in which the role of discourse and language in proliferating ideologies is essential in not only spreading certain ideologies (which is a very important process in itself) but also in reconstructing and re/producing it (specially with the discursive level of modern societies and the central role of consensus making practices in political decision making of the late modern societies with secular democracies).

Said, E. (1993) Culture and Imperialism, Random House, London.

Izadi, F. and Saghaye-Biria, H. (2007) A Discourse Analysis of Elite American Newspaper Editorials. Journal of Communication Inquiry. Volume 31/2, 140-165.

Edward Said (3): Language and Empire, Nationalism and Extremism in Post Colonial World, 'Western' or 'World' Philosophy.

“No one can deny the persisting continuity of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human was about.” Edward Said (Culture and Imperialism)

English Language as an element of empire?

Said also discusses the role of English language as being used as the Lingua Franca of the colonial world and maintains that ‘English’, “the lingua Franca for metropolitan Britain: global, comprehensive, and with so vast a social authority as to be accessible to anyone speaking to and about the nation. This Lingua Franca locates England at the focal point of a world also resided over by its power, illuminated by its ideas and culture, kept productive by the attitudes of its moral teachers, artists, legislators.” (Culture and Imperialism 123)

Robert Phillipson (2008) tries to throw some light on role of English language and teaching in expansion of the empire on a more contemporary scale. He believes that;

“'British Council' was established in 1935 to promote British interests and English, partly in response to the success of the fascist governments of Italy and Germany in using language teaching and higher education scholarship to promote their national interest.” (5)

“English is not merely an instrument for communication, it is a value one identifies with for the social functions the language is seen as serving, its utility in the linguistic market” (5)

“the asymmetrical relationship between ‘natives’ and ‘non-natives’ is confirmed in the naming of the profession. ‘The naming ‘TESOL’ already assigns dichotomous Self-Other subject positions to teacher and learner. It interactionally and officially positions the Anglo-teacher as self, and positions the learner in a life trajectory of forever being other –continuing the colonial storyline… " (Lin and Luke 2006: 67 cited in Phillipson 2008)

He maintains that English brings about a huge amount of linguistic and cultural capital to the user and argues that teaching English as an international language or a lingua franca is always an inherently political endeavour which is carefully packaged ‘in a mantle of the apolitical’ (15)

In trying to move away from the role of the language to examine the role of such accumulated power and authority in British circles Said lists some of the historical moments in which Britain has had an explicit display of power over colonies and concludes that while Orientalist novelists and historians derive their authority from these obvious superiority in known ‘power’ they at the same time are a part of the discursive mechanism of power creation through creating “worlds” in which such power relations are presupposed. As such there appear to be a circularity in production and consumption of Orientalist ideologies.

“what Ruskin, Tennyson, Meredith, Dickens, Arnold, Thacheray, George Elliot, Carlyle, Mill- in short the full roaster of significant Victorian writers- saw was a tremendous international display of British power virtually unchecked over the entire world. It was both logical and easy to identify themselves in one way or another with this power, having through various means already identified themselves with Britain domestically…There is an impressive circularity here; we are dominant because we have the power (industrial, military, moral), and they don’t, because of which they are not dominant; they are inferior, we are superior..” (127)

Such circularity is an inherent quality of a system of ideology-discourse-ideology of any kind, the type which can analysed and discussed in racist/discriminatory ideaologies as well.

Nationalism and extremism in post colonial time

Said condemns hijacking of the anti-colonial, anti-imperialistic discourses by local authoritarian regimes in the post colonial time e.g. Idi Amins and Saddam Husseins of the third world and maintains that such “nationalism” are counter productive (264).

Said tries to explain the complexity of the concept of ‘nationalism’ in the context of anti-imperialistic struggles; "'nationalism' is a word that still signifies all sorts of undifferentiated things, but it serves me quit adequately to identify the mobilizing force that coalesced into resistance against an alien and occupying empire on the part of peoples processing a common history, religion, and language.” (269)

At the same time he shows that such nativist, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist movements in colonial or more contemporary world tends to pave the way for authoritarian regimes who, in turn, derive their legitimacy from such discourses.

“Nationality, nationalism, nativism; the progression is, I believe, more and more constraining. In countries like Algeria and Kenya one can watch the heroic resistance of community partly formed out of colonial degradations, leading to a protracted armed and cultural conflict with the imperial powers, in turn giving way to a one-party state with dictatorial rule and, in case of Algeria, an uncompromising Islamic fundamentalism opposition…No transformation of social consciousness here, but only an appalling pathology of power duplicated elsewhere- in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Zaire, Morocco, Iran… Any way nativism is not the only alternative"(277).

“Democracy in any real sense of the word is nowhere to be found in the still ‘nationalistic’ Middle East: there are either privileged oligarchies or privileged ethnic groups. The large mass of people is crushed beneath dictatorship or unyielding, unresponsive, unpopular government” (363).

Thus, quite sadly such anti-imperialistic discourses lay the foundation of oligarchies in post colonial world e.g. Iran (Said cites Jalal Al Ahmad’s ‘Occidentosis’ as an example of an anti-imperialistic account which blames the ‘West’ for all the evils in the world. 276). However, he admits that his agenda for this book is not to focus and analyse how anti-imperialistic discourses legitimate radical undemocratic systems in the post colonial world (333).

Perhaps understandably Said’s account of Iran –when discussed in more details- does not seem to be as comprehensive as expected. In discussing the first “Gulf war” (the name being controversial itself!), while he criticizes Saddam Hussein for trying to wipe out Kuwait he strongly criticises Saddam’s expansionist strategies and asks; “What sort of muddled and anachronistic idea of Bismarckian ‘integration’ was it to wipe out a country and smash its society with ‘Arab unity’ as the goal?” (362). What can be observed from an Iranian perspective is that nothing of the kind is even argued for Saddam’s expansionist invasion of Iran which engaged Iran and Iraq in 8 years of devastating war. Was that war not “Bismarckian” enough? Was that war a legitimate intend under the “Arab Unity”? Why turning a blind eye here as if nothing of the kind ever happened before the "first Gulf War"? Was it really the "first"?

He continues that “the most disheartening thing was that so many people, many of them victims of the same brutal logic, appear to have supported the action and sympathised not at all with Kuwait. Even if one grants that Kuwaitis were unpopular (does one have to be popular not to be exterminated?)”. Once again why not asking the same about Iran. Isn’t he also falling prey to the same hegemonic perspective of those who “appear to have supported the action” in the case of Iran? isnt it true that Iran –after 1979 revolution- was nothing to be favoured so all the world just decided to turn a blind eye on what Saddam tried to do?

Another major criticism on this part of his analysis is that he is assuming an inherent originality to “borders” in former colonies. He seems to miss out considering the fact that all these "borders" in the former colonies were drawn not very long time ago. I am not trying to say that it is “ok” for Saddam not to respect Kuwait as a sovereign country. However, this is a very important historical element that needs to be accounted for in a discussion like this. Thus, it is ethically the right thing to say that Kuwait was to be a “nation to be obliterated” through “murderous proposition”, but the use of language by Said seems rather too strong and worse this is only mentioned for Kuwait which is a very close allied of USA. Is Said falling to the same macro-structure of hegemonic power that he is so critical of?

'Western' or 'World' philosophy: A Euro-Centric philosophy

Said criticizes Western contemporary philosophy -and its more recent post modern and critical approaches- as being ignorant or not paying enough attention to the fact that the world is not necessarily experiencing what the ‘West’ is experiencing in terms of polity and philosophical perspective. That is to say that ‘Western’ philosophy does not have the means to account for ‘trans-European’ phenomenon like, colonialism or imperialism.

“Much of Western Marxism, in its aesthetic and cultural departments, is similarly blinded to the matter of imperialism. Frankfurt School critical theory, despite its seminal insights into the relationships between domination, modern society, and the opportunities for redemption through art as critique, is stunningly silent on racist theory, anti-imperialistic resistance, and oppositional practice in the empire. At lest the silence be interpreted as an oversight, we have today’s leading Frankfurt theorist, Jurgen Habermas, explaining in an interview (originally published in the new Left Review) that the silence is deliberate abstention: no, he says, we have nothing to say to ‘anti-imperialist’ and anti-capitalist struggles in the Third World, even if, he adds, ‘I am aware of the fact that this is eurocentrically limited view’. All the major French theoreticians except Deleuze, Todorov, and Derrida have been similarly upheeding, which has not prevented their ateliers from churning out theories of Marxism, language, psychoanalysis, and history with an implied applicability to the whole world. Much of the same thing can be said about Anglo- Saxon cultural theory, with the important exception of feminism, and a small handful of work by young critics influenced by Raymond Williams and Sturat Hall” (336)

Similar tendencies can generally be seen in what can be classified under a ‘post modern’ approach and the critic of ‘modernism’; be it in sociology, rhetorics, political science or philosophy. A lot of these theories assume a uni-form world with similar experiences of secularity, positivism, modernity and the so-called “enlightenment” and continue to subliminally assume universality in academic endeavours. The argumentation theory and systematisation of fallacies in argumentation e.g. in works of Van Eemeren is an example in which it is assumed that argumentation is the main source of power and legitimation in societies and such a society cherishes the ‘consent making through deliberation’ (Habermas) as the main or only way of winning ‘power’. A point which may not apply in the majority of lands in the world!

Said emphasizes on different qualities of different ‘worlds’ and argues that;

“ In the west, Post-modernism has seized upon the ahistorical weightlessness, consumerism, and spectacle of the new order. To it are affiliated other ideas like post-Marxism, and post-structuralism, varieties of what the Italian philosopher Gianni Vatimo describes as ‘the weak thought’ or ‘the end of modernity’. Yet in the Arab and Islamic world many artists and intellectuals like Adonis, Elias Khoury, Kamal Abu Deeb, Muhammad Arkoun, and Jamal Ben Sheikh are still concerned with modernity itself, still far from exhausted, still a major challenge in a culture dominated by turath (heritage) and orthodoxy. This is similarly the case in Caribbean, East Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent...” (399)

Yet, after highlighting the inefficiencies of assumptions of universality and perfect similarity he shows how discriminatory ideologies work on the concepts of binary boundaries and ‘differences’ and how such conceptualisations are not valid any more and should be avoided.

“No one today is purely one thing. Lables like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are no more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of culture and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their own cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuity of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human was about.” (408)

Said E. (1993) Culture and Imperialism, Random House, London.

Phillipson, R. (2008) ‘The linguistic imperialism of neoliberal empire’ Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 5/1.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Actor, Action, Argumentation: Towards an Amalgamation of CDA Methodological Categories in Representations of Social Actors.

This is the abstract of my paper presentation at the Second Lancaster University Linguistics Department Postgraduate Conference on June 5th 2007.

The present article focuses on the methodology of the research project: “Representation of Immigrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in British Newspapers Between 1996 to 2006” which was carried out at Lancaster University in 2006-7. The CDA part of the project was an investigation into how these groups of people are represented and what linguistic processes and categories are usually implemented in their representation in the news papers in Britain.

Major CDA studies on social out-groups e.g. immigrants and foreigners, within Wodak’s Discourse-Historical and Van Dijk’s Socio-cognitive approaches have developed useful methodologies and proposed several analytical categories through which the representations of these groups in discourse are accounted for. At the same time these guidelines have inspired many more studies on different social actors in various contexts. Consequently several listings of relevant analytical categories have been developed and applied. However, a review of the proposed methodological categories shows that the sheer variety of the proposed methodologies in different studies –though essentially similar- may cause confusion among researchers. At the same time the link between the macro-structures (ideologies) and the analytical categories and their ways of interactions seem to have received insufficient attention.

The present article mainly draws on mainstream CDA analytical categories including; referential, predicational, and argumentative strategies (topoi) (Wodak 2001, Reisigl and Wodak 2001), Discourse topics, Positive self-presentation and Negative-other presentation (Van Dijk 1991, 1995, Wodak and Van Dijk 2006) and representations of social actors (Van Leeuwen 1996).

However, the article proposes an amalgamation of the above categories and shows how the micro level analytical categories are linked to the macro structure at work. Specifically, a three-level analytical framework is suggested for CDA studies investigating various social actors in discourse. This framework divides the analysis into three main categories of Actor, Action and Argumentation and looks at what is (not) there in terms of these three levels on the one hand, and analyses how these three levels are operationalised and realised through a set of linguistics processes/ aspects which “perspectivise” the realisation of these three levels on the other hand.

Key words:
Critical Discourse Analysis, CDA methodologies, Representations of Social Actors.

Reisigl, M. & Wodak, R. (2001) Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Anti-Semitism. London and New York: Rutledge.

Van Dijk, T. (1991) Racism and the Press; Critical Studies in Racism and Migration. London and New York: Rutledge.

Van Dijk, T.A. (1995) “Ideological Discourse Analysis”, New Courant in Ventola, E., Solin, A. (Eds) Special issue Interdisciplinary approaches to Discourse Analysis, (pp. 135-161)

Van Leeuwen, T. (1996) “The representations of social actors”, In Caldas Coulthard, C.R. & Coulthard, M. (Eds) Texts and Practices. (pp. 32-70) London and New York: Rutledge.

Wodak, R. (2001) “The discourse-historical approach”, In Wodak, R. and Meyer, M. (Eds) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (pp. 83-94) London, Sage.

Wodak, R. & Van Dijk, T.A. (2006) Racism at the Top. Drava, Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Austria.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CDA and Corpus Linguistics: pros and cons of a methodological merging

This is a draft article which I wrote on the potential contributions of Corpus Linguistics (CL) to CDA from a CDA point of view and the pros and cons of such methodological merger.

It needs to be mentioned that parts of this document has been incorporated in a forthcoming article; "A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press" By Paul Baker, Costas Gabrielatos, Majid KhosraviNik, Michal Krzyzanowski, Tony McEnery, and Ruth Wodak.

Majid KhsoraviNik


The interest in incorporating corpus based methodologies in CDA studies is an emerging tendency in CDA studies in recent years. However, the number of CDA work incorporating machine based techniques is disproportionately low (Mautner 2005). In the meantime, some researchers have tried to shed some light on the merits of incorporating machine-based methodology, specifically corpus linguistics, in critical discourse analytical studies (Hardt-Mautner 1995, Mautner 2005, Koller and Mautner 2004, Stubbs 1996, 1997) while traditions in CDA seem to have reservations in taking on board a Corpus Linguistics (henceforth CL) approach for various theoretical, logistic and methodological reasons (Mautner 2005, Caldas-Couldhard, 1993).

The interest in a merger between CL and CDA can be traced in two crucial and yet absolutely distinct parameters. Firstly, with the advent of new technologies and the increasing number of availability of electronic sources all around the world e.g. COUBUILD project in Birmingham University, British National Corpus and UCREL project in Lancaster University along with emerging content material on internet and even search engines as corpus has nurtured a new domain of analysis which can both be considered a necessary and/or advantageous domain of analysis. That is to say that the new changes in the public sphere and penetration of internet in various aspects of everyday life increasingly urges and at the same time luring CDA studies to pay more attention to this domain and its affordances. The shift of public sphere from more traditional domains to online virtual spaces for the past two decades is an automatic call for re-orientation for problem-oriented discourse-focused studies to make the necessary shifts as ‘in a variety of domains -from the intensely personal and local to the public and global- discourse on the web is now a key factor in constructing representations of reality and intertextuality’(2005:821). However, the new emerging re-orientation in CDA is not a challenge-free endeavour due to affordances that the new genre imposes, e.g. ‘dealing with huge sized material’, ‘seamless and elusive quality of the content’, and ‘obscurity of authorship’ (Mautner 2005: 815).

Nevertheless, these new methods of accessing linguistics data bring with them newer approaches to incorporate genre specific qualities of these sources and hence more machine-based tools and techniques are indispensably brought into CDA’s more traditional manual analytical approaches. Moreover, the new relevant developments in technology e.g. availability of electronic archives of newspapers articles in colossal sizes has on the other hand given new salience to (re)emergence of corpus linguistics as a useful and legitimate analytical technique in linguistics.

The other line of interest in emerging interest in incorporation of CL into CDA is consequential to academic debates between CDA scholars and its critics (Stubbs 1997,Hammersely1995, 1997) There are criticism on and around CDA ranging from absolutely ‘applied linguistics’ perspective (Widowson 1995, 1998, 2004) filled with quasi-positivist conceptions ‘scientifism’ that are not willing to see through CDA’s different epistemological and philosophical theoretical standpoints with other lines of methodology oriented linguistics, to attempts by people within CDA perspective to contribute to the methodological rigor of CDA regarding –debatably- the data selection techniques, systematic data sampling and the analytical categories. Amidst these criticisms CDA’s notion of social commitment and its potential emancipatory activism prevents the approach from compromising its ‘sensitivity’ in all levels of study and at times finds those approaches inherently ‘rudimentary’ and shallow for a critical account of the problem under investigation. Similarly Mautner 1995 points out to the inherently holistic approach of CDA and its concern for accounting for discourse/society interface and asserts that ‘its [CDA’s] traditions...does not augur well for integration of computer-aided analysis’ (2005:3) and emphasizes ‘sensitivity’ in CDA studies argues that ‘critical interpretation requires historical knowledge and sensitivity, which can be possessed by human beings but not by machines’ (Fowler 1991: 68, cited in Maunter 1995:3)

CDA endorses ‘criticality’ and ‘context dependency’ -be it co-textual, discoursal or socio-political, as integral aspects of the research-. That is, CDA is not only interested in de-contextualised data per se but it transcends the data/text and examines the process of production and interpretation and the socio-political contextual elements of a text. Further more, CDA is socially committed, it is heavily informed by social theory and looks at discourse/linguistic data as a salient type of social practice and the container and at the same time the mirror of ideologies at work in the society.

Further more, ‘explanatory’ level of analysis and discussion is a core aspect of CDA where the data analysis is contextualised within a specific socio-political context of the society while the same explanatory level is consulted in the data selection procedure. A CDA study is required to account for contextual characteristics in the selection, analysis and conclusions. That is, a CDA type data selection needs to be ‘sensitive’ to the goals of the research and the socio-political context.

On the other hand, a ‘critical’ analysis would not only be interested to see what linguistic elements and processes exist in a text or set of texts but it needs to account why and under what circumstances and consequences the producers of the text have made specific linguistics choices among several other options that a given language may provide. That is, a critical analysis is interested in what is ‘present’ and what is ‘absent’ in the data. This comprises a methodological block of CDA criticism against descriptive, data driven approaches as they are epistemologically inadequate to account of the linguistic choices in process of production of a text and thus miss out a valuable amount of in-depth insights. Mautner 1995 also warns –though sympathetically against the possibility of a machine-based text analysis to turn into such essentialism and simplification and argues that ‘there is a danger, as Stubbs and Gerbig (1993:78) also remind us, of ‘counting what is easy to count’. That is true, in particular of many syntactic phenomena and of discoursal patterning’. (Mautner 1995:23)

However, neither do all these debates mean that any incorporation of machine-based methodologies with CDA approaches towards dada selection and analysis is not feasible nor does it indicate that CDA would not or could not welcome and benefit from the quantitative approaches like corpus linguistics. CL can contribute valuably in rectifying CDA’s procedures in data selection –specifically when dealing with large data (Mautner 1995:1)- and analysis sections provided that the selection is carried on sensitively and does not pose itself as antithesis to CDA’s aims.
A combination of these factors; specific feasibilities of electronic archives, new technological advancement, emerging online space as public sphere, the attempts in systematisation of data selection in CDA and new analytical tools offered by CL are among the motivations for the present project which is a combined and yet independent Corpus linguistic and CDA study of discourses of immigrants, asylum seeker and refugees in British newspapers from 1996 to 2006.

CDA and CL perspectives

The present study has been designed in two strands of CL and CDA working independently towards accounting for representations of RASIM in British newspapers and to see how these two strands can integrate methodologies and insights and benefit from one another.

From a strictly CDA perspective not only quantitative approaches are unsuitable tools for accounting for discursive strategies in discourses of newspapers but also a descriptive data driven approach like CL per se is inherently inarticulate in targeting social problems and relating the linguistic analysis to the social context of language in use. Thus, there is a desperate need for an explanatory level to be added to analytical framework which is informed by social theory. CDA approach toward data and data selection is heavily informed and shaped by the theoretical concepts with an extensive literature available on the social theory and commitment to tackle a social problem e.g. racism, gender inequality. Thus, unlike the emphasis given to “systematic” data collection and randomisation in applied linguistics studies, ‘systematicity’ in data selection is not the most crucial defining factor in the design of a study although it may be desirable. You may see CDA studies on a range of different texts and materials which are not compatible in their forms, contents and genres and different parts of analysis may draw on different types of texts. On the other hand quantitative approaches foreground the data as both the focal point of the research as well as its end product. That is, the analysis starts and finished by ‘describing’ different aspects of the data.

On the other hand, it can be argued that CDA is flexible in moving between theory and methodology with both influencing each other e.g. data analysis may or may not support an existing theory or the theory may call for a new approach in the type of the data and methodology. By comparing CDA with CL analytical approached to discourse analysis one may argue that CDA starts with theory moving to data analysis and ends with establishing the link between the linguistic findings with the social context, CDA has the apparatus to “makes sense” of “why” linguistics finding are the way they are. While a CL analysis seems to start from a theoretical vacuum and finish with some descriptive analysis of the language with some potential conclusions made in numerical terms.

In short, it can be argued that CDA is theory oriented and looks deep in rather limited size texts while CL is methodology oriented and looks at much larger scale data with yet looking at basic linguistic features. Thus, the differences include; a. the depth of the analysis as is the classic difference between qualitative and quantitative approaches and b. having a “critical” or descriptive approach. At the same time there is a major commonality between the two and that is the fact that both CDA and CL work with data.

Data Results (possibly) Theory

Theory Data Results Theory

It is the link between the initial theory and data selection procedure in CDA which has been criticised as being subjective and unsystematic and this is where a corpus based approach can fill in especially with large size data e.g. our project.

This project

In the present project we needed to deal with a colossal archive of news paper articles which would cover all the articles of all British newspapers on or about refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants (RASIM) within a time span of 10 years. This huge size collection of articles could not have been managed without the help of some preliminary CL analysis to help CDA strand to find a rationale for choosing its absolutely limited number of articles.

Within the goals of the present study the CDA part of the project based its first step of data selection and sampling on some preliminary corpus analysis of the whole data where CL was able to spot some spikes in the frequency of the occurrence of RASIM throughout the data and that gave CDA a starting point for data sampling and keeping it as systematic as possible.

Complementary CL/CDA

One major contribution of CL to CDA when dealing with large scale data is the data selection where a CDA analyst may come under the criticism of arbitrariness in selection of texts to be analysed. CL can create a systematic procedure in selection and provide a macro map of the data available as to see what is happening in which part of the data and when so that periods/events can be spotted for CDA to look into and select texts accordingly. In our project, for instance CDA analyses focused on five spikes found by CL where the frequency of occurrences of RASIM was significantly higher than other times/events and this established the first step of a systematic data selection for the CDA strand of the project.

Thus, some general qualities of the data available by CL techniques can always help CDA analysis in strengthening its logics of focusing on specific time or source based on a descriptive mini model of the whole data rather than sampling the data in an ad hoc manner or trying the more classic randomisation (e.g. selecting every other 10 articles) which would lack the required sensitivity of the selection and treats all the data as equally relevant and significant.

Moving on to the more analytical categories, collocation analysis can show how cognitive associations are created and confirmed through concrete linguistic alignment of a social actor e.g. immigrants with their macro structural associations through out the huge data available arriving at different descriptions for different times and events. CDA can deconstruct and investigate how such social cognition is constructed through more “soft” mechanism of argumentation and semantic alignments of propositions and topics. It extensively involves itself with argumentation and tries to establish the role of context and co-text of texts- though in limited numbers- in creating, confirming, or perpetuating certain cognition. CL on the other hand throws light on the concrete linguistic realisations which may construct certain cognitions by examining a huge body of data and come to meaningful collocations of certain linguistics lexical elements and relate it to certain macro structure. This is to say, CDA makes an in-depth diachronic (contextual) and synchronic (co-textual) investigation of limited number of text while CL carries out a descriptive investigation of qualities of texts in a size which is unimaginable and not feasible for a CDA analysis. (Although CDA may not actually need to exceed from certain number of details analyses since the categories and findings seem to become highly repetitive, as CL and CDA results of this project also largely overlap).

One of the short coming of relying on CL techniques is the textual qualities that a CL analysis can analyse. CL approach is mostly “lexical” and is restricted to analysing the arrangements and distributions of ‘words’ in the data. Thus, it proves to be most productive when accounting what CDA calls ‘referential’ strategy which mostly targets how different social actors are named or referred to. The other discursive strategies e.g. predicational one (with more limited scale) and argumentative strategies are widely left out as they mostly function on larger linguistic units than ‘words’. Referential qualities of discourse -how social actors are referred to- are only one of the levels of analysis in a CDA which may not be the strong point of a CDA as it may not be a very opaque technique (although it can be argued that only a CL type of analysis which looks at referential qualities throughout all the data can establish that –for instance- RASIM are always referred to with negative adjective’). On the predicational side also CL can throw some light in terms of what actions and verbs are usually populated in discourses on/about certain social groups but because a CL analysis cannot –or is not meant to- look at the immediate co-text and context it may just results in general descriptive analysis of qualities of verbs and attribution. CL can partly account for co-text when analysing the before and after part of a certain occurrence of RASIM. Hence, a comprehensive analysis of these strategies throughout the data will need to incorporate some CL based techniques while it would require to go beyond that.

As mentioned above CDA’s strong point, however, is not locating and analysing referential strategies per se. It builds on a network of referential, predicational, argumentative strategies along with study of metaphors, presuppositions, mitigation and hyperboles etc and most importantly an amalgamation of these and their interfaces in deconstructing a text. CDA can account for consequential effects of certain co-text and context elements in the process of production and interpretation of a text. Going beyond referential and predicational aspects (which may be considered to be word or sentence level analyses) CDA can also account for argumentative aspect of a text and try to capture the process of cognitive interpretation of a text for a consumer while argumentation analysis is out of the realm of a CL analysis by definition.

The ‘scale’ of analysis is another important factor in CL/CDA merger. While CL can capture qualities of discourse in an immense size and come up with an index of descriptive characteristics of these texts in terms of the forms of the language being used, CDA can account for the ‘meanings’ and meaning construction mechanisms in minimal number of texts and account for abstract aspect of discourse. On the other hand CDA may not be allowed to generalise its findings on a limited number of texts while CL may be useful to examine if such qualities are systematically relevant in larger data or whether such generalisation can be made. Thus, the two strands can be defined as a triangulation in examining the data.

It is also obvious that such a merger between CDA and CL is most useful if the CDA study is followed by a CL analysis and that CL analysis is seen as part of the methodological apparatus of CDA. As such CL will compensate for its apparent lack of conceptualisation and orientations in what kind of analysis needs to be carried out and what the explored results may ‘mean’. Thus, CL is best to be carried out while the CDA analysis is going on or immediately afterwards so that it can be used as a trajectory for the questions raised in the minds of the CDA analyst e.g. to examine if a certain quality is a paramount characteristic through out the data and whether it can be generalised.

Contrary to what may be believed, a CL analysis also similar to that of CDA requires a certain level of “subjectivity” in terms of making decision on the categories to be analysed e.g. shall we look at data in terms of conservative and liberal dichotomy or broad sheet and tabloid or what query words and collocations may be relevant and the like. Thus CDA can bring in the necessary ‘insight’ to CL to create a focal point and a ‘reason’ for investigation. That is, if CL is considered to be a mythological tool for CDA.

As language is a highly dynamic and creative phenomenon the use of language in propagating a certain ideology may change within a short period of time. On the same note, depending on the type of the discourse e.g. type of newspapers under study here, different degrees of ‘linguistic’ realisation may be spotted. While some newspapers may be ‘creative’ in producing an ideology others may be copying more ‘classic’ linguistic forms e.g. famous metaphors of large quantities for immigrants in proliferating that ideology. For example one of the CDA findings of qualities of discourses on RASIM in our project is that broadsheet newspapers avoid the classic metaphors and terms against RASIM while tabloids use them freely. This is also confirmed through CL findings. Thus, when a CL approach tried to look for occurrences of more, ‘classic’ and ‘known’ linguistic terms and metaphors which are believed to be used about RASIM it is inherently oblivious of the more creative mechanisms in quality press where the same or new (negative) categories are perpetuated without making use of the ‘known’ words and collocations. Hence the results of CL on representation of RASIM in newspapers is actually reduced to checking to see how much of everyday stereotypes are recycled and reproduced in the newspapers while ignoring the important fact that discourses are always productive and reproductive. CDA on the other hand is vigilant on both aspects namely discourses that draw on general stereotypes (reproductive) and discourses that work as creating and feeding into those stereotypes (productive). Thus, CDA may find that conservative broadsheets also perpetuate a (negative) ideology against RASIM while CL may not be able to locate and confirm this because its starting point of analysis is the existing notions.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Positive Discourse Analysis?

Positive discourse analysis: power, solidarity and change. James Martin, Revista
Canaria de Estudios Ingleses. 49 2004.

I recently read James Martin’s article after I was hearing about “Positive Discourse Analysis” here and there. As far as I am concerned the article seems to have attracted an undeserving amount of attention for reasons other than its being a seminal rigorous one. As far I can see the article is a call for attention to be paid to “positive” changes in discourses about social problems- with an assumption that the subject matter of Critical Discourse Analysis is necessarily “negative”.

Putting aside the article’s useful notion of a discursive “design” and the idea of designing a discoursal plan for solving notorious social problems, the article does not offer that much of constructive insights-if not being destructive.

The first thing to emphasize again is that as Wodak, Chilton and many others have repeatedly stated, CDA is not theoretically and necessarily about “negative” aspects of discourses and the concept of critical should not be taken literally as a mere criticism. However, CDA is heavily informed by social theory and is socially committed thus, it naturally targets “problems” e.g. gender inequality, discrimination, racism, political hegemonies, minority rights etc. As such it is required to throw light on the so called ‘negative’ aspects of the discursive and social practices.

Another- rather obvious- point is that when doing CDA and accounting for the qualities of discourses concerning a social problem there is always a room to talk about ‘positive’ aspects and improvements in discourses or strategies as well. This is not something that a researcher would need to refrain from in a CDA approach. Yet, when investigating a problem the tendency is towards focusing on the problem rather than trying to capture the “improvements” of the situation historically. That is, one important element for CDA research is that ‘the problem exists’ hence; the focus is kept on deconstructing the problem rather than showing how a problem is less of a problem now compared to the past.

On the same note, what we need to keep in mind is that the struggles for betterment of circumstances can never be considered an accomplished mission theoretically speaking and there is always a better level that can be achieved and new aspects to be investigated. Therefore, there is always dark or less researched/changed aspects in discourses about –let’s say, gender inequalities- that may/should/could be investigated.

Perhaps more importantly is to ask the question if 'we are allowed to celebrate’ or whether ‘we can be “happy”’ that through the struggles for civil rights and equalities we have achieved so much that now we need to sit back and enjoy.

Let’s make it more clear with a tangible case in Jim Martin’s article and the Australian context, particularly the part where his tone shakes with emotions when seeing how well the ‘feel-sorry’ commemoration catches on among all people. There is no arguing that such a change is a good development for a “white” generation to come to terms with its previous generations’ atrocities against Australian aborigines and feel apologetic about it. However, when feel-sorry discourse is converted to let’s-celebrate 'how-good-we-are party it looks nothing but condescending and implicitly perpetuating unequal power relations. The theoretical question here is if we can we rejoiced to see that since the time when “whites” used to abduct the children of aborigines and separate them from their mothers and families for good, the society has changed so much that we not only disapprove such actions but we have become so good to FEEL SORRY for those mothers. I am sorry if this is a bit blunt but to me it just seems too self absorbed and hypocritical to self assign credit merely because discourses about those atrocities now incorporate sorrow.

Taking the approach to another context, is it not implying that we should celebrate the positive changes in discourse of -for instance- “racial relations” because black people are no longer being lynched or we feel happy because we have become so ‘good’ to feel sorry for victims of Holocaust or that women do not need to take to streets to demand suffrage?

Doesn’t this mean that by focusing on the “positive” aspects –which is obviously a reaction to CDA- we are calling for a sit-back-n-enjoy break in the struggles of social change? Doesn’t such an approach assume that the social problems e.g. ‘racism’ or gender inequalities are somehow solved and we need to “cool it down”? If things are “positive” why bother to research? And how such an approach becomes ‘insightful’ and what is it that this approach will be helping?

The idea of analysing ‘change’ throughout different historical moments of a discourse is –at times- not only constructive but necessary. Naturally, such a diachronic investigation could indicate different stages of development and “positive” changes. Nevertheless, locating the “positive” changes is not the final goal per se in CDA's historical tracing. It could just be part of the investigation and findings while the focus is on the contemporary problem no matter how trivial it may look compared to its old history. “Positive Discourse Analysis” seems to advocate an approach to capture and explain the “positive” changes as the main research agenda and that is a problem.

I think the notion of PDA and the attention it has attracted-apart from some culture contextual factors e.g. perhaps in China- is more of a ‘discipline parallelism’ which juxtaposes PDA next to CDA. It is simply hard to believe that PDA in such capacity of theory and space can actually bring about a real ‘mood swing’ as some like to assume.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Iran, mosaics of ethnicity, and crisis of identity

This article has also been published in an online Iranian forum under the title of "Iran, wobbly mosaics, ethnicity and crisis of identity" and can be accessed here too.

The international frenzy and panic over Iran’s nuclear ambitions continues as the diplomatic chess game is turning increasingly twisted with Russia playing a clandestine double agent role, squeezing economic, political and strategic benefits out of Iran while keeping an eye on the thermometer of its relations with Europe and USA.

While the world is ushered fully into the hardline, fundamentalist picture of Iran- which is ironically the most socially secularized country in the region- and its populist sensational “president” AhmadiNejad, the country is at the threshold of historical moment in terms of its diverse ethnic grouping and a crisis in what is to be called “an Iranian identity”.

Quite predictably, in recent years after a long history of mainly two authoritarian systems of Pahlavi shahs and the current Islamic theocracy and the historical processes of the society in moving from a strictly rural, uneducated population to mainly urbanised, educated one the diversity and disharmonious nature of the ‘Iranian Identity’ is becoming increasingly salient in social and political make up of the society inside and outside Iran.

Decades of one-dimensional and intrinsically suppressive grand policies imposed on the diverse groups of Iranian society and the hegemonic central government rule in promoting a unique “identity” devoid of any room for any multicultural models have now become the main source of discontent and protest in various levels of society in Iran.

The unrest and street clashes of ‘Azaris’ or ‘Turks’ (names being highly sensational) in last July, is an example of the signs of years of unresolved tensions. Azaris who are the dominating ethnographic element in north western part of Iran decided to demonstrate a hugely disproportionate protest against what was considered to be an insulting caricature in one of the national newspapers in Iran. The unprecedented protest turned nasty when masses of angry Azari demonstrators took to the streets and openly and proudly claimed their identity followed by vandalism of public buildings and belligerently loaded anti- Persian slogans in more extremist circles.

In a more recent example -but in a more controlled and limited scale- in November the ethnic ‘Lurs’ students openly expressed their discomfort and anger about their social representation and negative stereotypes against them in public culture of Iran.

Iran is a country of diverse “groups” created not only in terms of ethnicity, but also religions and or sects. In terms of ethnicity which is the main factor, there are ‘Azaris’ in North West, ‘Lurs’ in West, ‘Kurds' in West and northwest, Arabs in south and south west,Baluchis, in south east, Gilakis in north and more of other smaller size ethnic minorities. While these groups have the element of “ethnicity” as their distinctive factor, at times the religious sectarianism (Shiite and Sunni) adds to the complexity of the situation as some of these groups are mainly Sunni muslims in contrast to Shiites who are the majority, i.e. Kurds, Baluchis. In the mean time occasionally language turns out to become a much greater identity element than the sect i.e. Arabs, Kurds and Azaris. Thus, ethnic groups in Iran may draw –with varying degrees- on their language, ethnicity, religious sect or a combination of all these to distinguish themselves from the hegemonic official Persian-Shiite identity in center.
Apart from the element of religious sects such as being Shiite or Sunni there are also some much smaller religious groups. Zoroastrians, Christians, Jewish, Baha’is, and Sufis are among the existing religious groups who (need to) draw on their religions as the main factor for building an identity while each one of these groups enjoys (or suffers from) different degrees of legality and practical means; Zoroastrians on one side and Bahai’s on the other side enjoy and suffer from the most and the least relative freedom in the country.

‘Persians’ the dominant ethnic group as ethnic group in majority and the “default” Iranian identity are actually very marginally ahead of the population of ‘Azaris’. However, the historical, cultural and linguistic dominance of Persians in Iran and the glorious periods of Akamaidian Persian empire of olden time Iran has always given Persians and Farsi speakers a predominant role in social aspects of the contemporary Iran both in secular Shah’s and Islamic theocracy regimes. After revolution the Iranian as Shiite-Muslim identity was enforced as the hegemonic official/political fields and interestingly now drawing on the “Iranian as Persians” identity is revived in opposition to the Shiite-Islamic identity of the current system.

Iranian-Persian identity was re/created in the modern context of Iran about six decades ago by Reza Shah Pahlavi, the influential figure in contemporary history of Iran who decided to “build” (or as some may like to say “revived”) a modern Iran after he was deeply influenced by Ataturk of Turkey and his ideas. In the process of ‘nation building’ and re/creating a new powerful modern Iran and in contrast to the former Ghajar dynasty who were Azaris, Iran was given a Persian identity and grand policies were developed to facilitate such an agenda.

Implementation of these inherently authoritarian policies did not create significant apparent discomfort as the country was transforming from a traditional, rural life style to more modern (although may be considered to more on the face) urbanised life style which in effect caused a mass migration from rural areas to big cities- mainly the capital Tehran- and creation of a large middle class city dwellers and hence mixture of different ethnic groups and establishment of Farsi as the dominant language of power and consequently some time later a social association of fluent Farsi speaking with more elegant social class.

Hopping over numerous intermittent facts and historical twists, the domination of Persian identity and the hegemonic discourse and rhetorics in different levels of social, political and public arenas did not create a major conflict until many years later in the rein of the son of Reza, Mohammad Reza Shah when signs of self consciousness’ among middle class, city dwellers with different ethnic identities were seen. However, with the surge of Islamic revolutionary rhetorics and the unitary element of Islam (or Shiism) as the almighty factor, the tension between the now middle class religious peoples (of diverse ethnicities) in cities and the monarchical corrupt system of Shah caused a strong all encompassing pro- revolutionary Iranian as a Muslims identity against Shah which eventually toppled Shah in 1979 with the Islamic revolution.

Between the rather short period of the chaotic post revolutionary time and the time when Saddam Hossein launched a full fledged invasion on Iran, there were some serious stand off situations and separatist struggles in Kurdish areas of Iran which ended by a strong crack down from the revolutionary guards. In a short time when the Iraqi army was marching towards the centre with almost no organised resistance Saddam’s threat became so paramount and consequently 8 years of full fledged war brought about the atmosphere of unity and cooperation inside the country specially with overt support that that Saddam was getting as Islamic revolution in Iran was not -and did not claim to be- a favourable development for most Western Europe, Arab World and specially USA.

About 25 years after the revolution and passing through different phases of a devastating war and disputable economic and political reconstruction, the inherently diverse society of Iran now enjoying a huge population of educated middle class elements, the policies of the government about ethnic and religious groupings in Iran have been anything but lenient and flexible –with may be the exception of the first round of Khatami the reformist president in which there was a relative relaxation at least on the expressing the concerns. As the hegemonic dominant of Persian and Farsi language is now interwoven into fabrics of social life in a heavily bourgeois city lifestyle accompanied with social negative representations of “other “ethnic” groups on one hand and the growing dissatisfaction and crisis in representation of the official Persian-Shiite Muslim inside Iran and fundamentalist, political Islamist identity assigned by the international media on Iran as the Iranian identity for a hugely diverse and relatively secular body of people, gradually more and more signs of desperation from the official and international identities were re/constructed.

Persian as secular and western identity was strongly revived among Iranian outside Iran as the default reaction against domestically (officially) and internationally represented identities of Iranian as Islamist identity. Los Angeles and California of USA with a huge population of Iranian living abroad became the centre of projection of such secular and western Iranian identity followed more or less by other Iranian residents in Canada and Europe.

Inside the country, more historically established ethnic groups e.g. Azaris and Kurds started to distinguish themselves in an unprecedented pace with different agendas as Azaris identity struggle is a purely ethnic/ social one against “persianisation” of public sphere in Iran and Kurds’ identity has a loaded religious sect elements and the discourse of political suppression. Along with the known disputed circles in the past few years there has emerged- in the public eye- “new” disseminating discourse with strong political, social, and religious elements e.g. Arabs and Baluchis

One determining point in the new surge of these new and old social, cultural. religious and political identity struggles in Iran is the strong reaction against the domestic or international current propagated identities and the tendency to re/define identities as different from the official ones. There seems to be a deep diversion process in dissociating identities from the official central one. This is a new historical moment in ethnic relations of Iran as consequential to two different circumstantial reasons. The first one is that there has never been such a big middle class educated population with more or less established cultural awareness in Iran who- for different reasons- are not happy with their symbolic or practical representations in socio-political terms hence they have strong tendencies to differentiate from the central official identities. And second point is that Iran and Iranians are going through their lowest symbolic representation in the eye of international public. This second point is much more intensified when considering, the glorious historical past of Iran, the dissatisfaction and disapproval of most Iranian living outside Iran of the current Islamic theocracy (interestingly these people are the ones who are mostly affected by the internationally prescribed negative identity for Iranians) and serious (embarrassing) mismanagement of governance inside Iran has created a overwhelming crisis of identity in which Iranians are constantly struggling in promoting themselves as “different” from those identities and in doing so the Persian-secular identity seems to be the most practical and suitable choice. Thus, outside Iran the discourse of Persian-secular Iranian is a discourse of protest against the official domestic Islamic Iranian. Inside Iran also shares the same concerns about the heavily politicalized Islamic identity while “Persian” seriously a problematic identity as a replacement. That is, both inside and outside Iran, Iranians share the dissemination from the political Islamic identity while the solution adopted by Iranian expatriates- to revive “Persian” identity- seems definitely too essentialist and painful for many groups inside.

The point that may need to be emphasized again is that, current Iran compared to all these decades of Persian-centred discourse has never had such a powerful element to disagree with the ‘Iranian-Islamic identity’ projected by the official discourse in Iran after revolution. In other words Iranian identity crisis has its roots in undemocratic representation of local or national identities in terms of what people actually are and as the system is enforcing and imposing a political Islamist identity on all Iranians and this is the source of all cycles of cultural and political ‘diversions’ of different groups.

Unlike several examples of the move towards more conversions and unification, e.g. East and West Germany, the creation and expansion of EU, in Iran the process of diversion and distancing from the central official discourse is gaining a major momentum which potentially may lead to linguistic, cultural or even political separatist tendencies.

This is the crucial element differentiating the present status of Iran from all the former decades as on one hand people have drastically become conscious and self aware of their potential lines of difference from the official-government- created image of Iran and on the other hand they do want to do so as they are not happy with that image.

Nearly three decades of enforcing political Islam as the main theme of Islamic revolution on one hand and the widespread negative representation of Islam in general and Islamic Iran in particular have contributed to escalating the already wobbly mosaics of groups in Iran.

In the present Iran all the historical, ethnic, religious distinctions along with several decades of wrong policies and attitudes towards ethics minorities and groups hand in hand with strong urge of differentiating and refraining from the official assigned identities are producing sharper and sharper cultural and ethnic or even religious borders in different groups.

While there is a general mood for “differentialist” attitudes, each centre of conflict in the mosaics of Iran presents some how a unique case. Azaris case is a heavily cultural one, they now find themselves as victims of several decades of unfair and unsubstantiated negative and prejudiced cultural representations and evaluations thus, by drawing on their cultural heritage and the contribution to the country together with the sense of assigned unfounded underdog image they are even on the position of aggression. There is an acute awareness and protectionism of language in Azari areas which un-discriminatingly projects anti-Persian or Farsi attitudes. In the same line the known cultural sites in Azerbaijan are gaining more prominence and cultural festivals i.e. Babak Khoramdin, or anniversaries of historical figures i.e. Shatarkhan have evolved to scenes of explicit or implicit protests to which the government reacts by enforcing more authority.

Kurds present a historical, political and religious case, they are the group who have had most severe standoff with the central governments and been the most outspoken and aggressive in claiming their identity.

In south and south west the case of Iranian Arabs is a case of religious (to some extent), cultural and linguistic distinction which –similar to most other groups- does not and did not fit into neither Persian-secular identity of former Shah of Iran and the Persian-Shiite Muslim identity of current system. The cultural and political sentiments in this area are also very strong.

Lurs as an ethnic distinctive group have suffered more heavily on their social negative presentation entrenched in all levels of social life in Iran. They present a case where the identity has suffered enormously in being represented as a “rural” and “primitive” in a society where urbanisation and middle class bourgeoisie is endorsed as superior. Only very recently there seem to be signs of revival and awareness of the cultural identity among Lurs.

Baluchis in South Eastern poor province of Sistan and Baluchestan of Iran present a mostly religious conflict against the centrally projected of Shiite-Muslim identity. Baluchis are mostly Sunnis.

In such a scenario there are also religious minorities who may strongly identify themselves distinctively different from the unpopular official Muslim identity however, given their size strong social and political hegemony they may not pose an explicit friction.

It is also interesting to note that Iran is surrounded by neighbours who are similar –in one way or another- to these different ethic groups and more importantly they offer a more “favourable” identity to these people at least in such a time of chaos in identity for Iranians.

On the North West, Turkey’s officially projected identity (probably in contrast to its society) of secular- modern Turk can be more attractive than the official Persian-Islamic identity in Iran. Although most Azaris (who are also called Turks) may not be willing to call for such a separatist move mostly due to inherent or perceived differences with those Turks. This makes the situation more of a cultural confusion and identity crisis.

The new Iraq is contributing to the shaky situation of ethnic groups in Iran too. Kurds in Iran are now seriously looking up to Iraqi Kurdistan and culturally associate themselves with them while the official identity in Iran is resented by many Kurds.

In the same line Arabs see eye to eye with their counter parts in southern Iraq as Iranian Arabs (mostly Shiite) share both Arab ethnicity, language and religion while for many reasons they feel they have never been wanted in Iran in both before and after revolution.

This may help explain the heavily confrontational policies of the system in Iran against outside “enemies” e.g. USA. Such a confrontational position accompanied by perfectly suitable strong confrontational responses by USA and president Bush works in two folds for the system in Iran. First, it helps it push the cap harder on diversities and different voices inside Iran by ‘the-need-for-unity-discourses’ which has been the single predominant discourse in Iran after revolution and second it offers a cover for ongoing corruption, mismanagement, and human right issues in Iran. Cultural healthy debates are restricted and labelled as attempts to support the ‘enemies outside’ and the power stays centralised in the system. This also explains the practical suitability of long lasting anti-imperialistic rhetorics throughout all the life of Islamic revolution while American policies and attitudes confirm and further perpetuate the usefulness and justification of such rhetorics.

The present nuclear stand off is another useful opportunity in sharpening the US/THEM discourses in Iran and probably in USA while the real victim here is the process of democracy and political reforms in Iran.