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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

Identity representations in the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Date Released: Mon, 13 October 2014 11:59 +0200

How were national, ‘racial’ and gender identities represented in the South African media around the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup? Dr Sally Hunt has done some very interesting linguistic research to answer this question.  She presented some of her findings at an English Language and Linguistics Departmental Research Seminar on Tuesday 7 October 2014.

In our globalised world with fractured identities, weaker nation states and mass migration, sport has become one of the social forces that maintain a sense of national belonging. As Smith & Porter (2004: 2) observe, increasingly, national identities are defined through and are ‘inextricably linked to what happens on the field of play’. However, recent thinking about social categories in Sociology and especially the paradigm of intersectionality have demonstrated (Crenshaw 1991) that socially constructed categories such as national identity cannot be treated in isolation, as they are always bound together with other constructs. Sport, with its historical emphasis on whiteness and masculinity, presents an interesting context in which to examine the intersection of nation, race and gender (Wheaton 2000).     

Dr Hunt’s presentation gave some preliminary results from a project that investigates the ways in which national, racial and gendered identities are constructed in media reporting on global sports events. Sports media have been shown to play a pivotal role in constructing and mediating identities (Meân & Halone 2010: 255), which is particularly significant when most people experience
such events only through the media.  Thus the question is, which discourses around identity are constructed and supported by media coverage during major global sports events and which identities are foregrounded and positively valued? The larger study is therefore an analysis of media reporting surrounding both the London Olympics 2012 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and Dr Hunt reported on the South African data in her talk. 

The method combines the tools of Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics (Baker 2008, Baker et al. 2008). It is based on an analysis of a large data set that comprises all articles published in 8 major national South African newspapers from the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the same period one year before and one year after the competition, totalling approximately 13,5 million words. By scrutinising frequency lists and studying collocational profiles of lexical items denoting national/ethnic/regional identities, she identified patterns in terms of the representation of identity and drew links between these textual tendencies and the discourses which emerge from the texts.

Source:Sally Hunt