The mediated representations of Brexit protests in the UK press: a corpus-assisted Critical Discourse Analysis

Kennedy, C.-R. ORCID: 0000-0002-9089-3433, 2022. The mediated representations of Brexit protests in the UK press: a corpus-assisted Critical Discourse Analysis. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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In 2016, the UK held a referendum on its membership of the European Union, asking the electorate to cast a vote to either leave or remain. A narrow majority (52%) opted to leave, triggering the biggest political and democratic crisis Britain has seen in generations. Polarising division separated the public, Parliament and the press, and nationwide discontent on both sides of the leave and remain debate led to numerous major protests. Despite this, Brexit-related demonstrations and their coverage in the British press is a hitherto largely neglected area of Brexit research. Using corpus-assisted Critical Discourse Analysis, this thesis conducts the first large-scale analysis of these protests by investigating how pro- and anti-Brexit demonstrations were represented in ten national daily UK newspapers. To achieve this, the 'Brexit Protests in the British Press' (BPBP) corpus was compiled, comprising 845 newspaper articles that reported on five pro-Brexit and ten anti-Brexit protests that took place between 2016 and 2019

The main aims of this thesis are twofold: to investigate how the leave and remain-supporting press discursively represented pro- and anti-Brexit protests, and to develop new methods that complement the corpus-assisted Critical Discourse Analysis of the mediated representations of protests. In demonstrating these aims, Chapter 4 analyses the system of transitivity to uncover how the leave and remain press construct pro- and anti-Brexit protests as either legitimate or delegitimate. Chapter 5 then seeks to shed new light on the protest paradigm. In doing so, it develops probes and incorporates key keyword and concordance analysis to observe the extent a sample of the leave press' coverage of anti-Brexit protests and the remain press' coverage of pro-Brexit protests conforms to McLeod and Hertog's (1999) protest paradigm frames. Lastly, Chapter 6 develops a novel linguistic framework through which the mediated representations of protests can be analysed. By adapting Tilly’s (2008; 2006; 2004; 1999; 1994) sociological conceptualisations of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment (WUNC), the chapter finds that the new linguistic WUNC framework can offer a more nuanced representational picture of pro- and anti-Brexit protests than the protest paradigm can.

The results of these analyses show that the press coverage of pro- and anti-Brexit protests is quite unlike the coverage of other protests researched in Critical Discourse Analysis, in that the Brexit-related demonstrations were not regularly constructed as violent or deviant. Given the hugely divisive Brexit debate, these findings are surprising. While this could be due to a changing, more ameliorative media landscape, the thesis concludes that this is likely due to the non-radical goals and tactics of the demonstrations. In terms of methodological developments, the thesis advocates for the integration of corpus tools to strengthen sociological research (i.e. the protest paradigm) and the integration of sociological research to help improve qualitative corpus methods (i.e. WUNC) to encourage interdisciplinary research and expand the visibility of corpus methods outside of Linguistics.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Kennedy, C.-R.
Wright, D.Thesis
Braber, N.Thesis
Date: October 2022
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 18 Oct 2023 09:21
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2023 09:21

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