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Intersections of nationality, gender, race and crime in news reporting: the case of Oscar Pistorius – Olympian and murderer

Hunt, S. and Jaworska, S. (2019) Intersections of nationality, gender, race and crime in news reporting: the case of Oscar Pistorius – Olympian and murderer. Discourse, Context & Media, 30. 100299. ISSN 2211-6958

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.dcm.2019.100299


Taking as the starting point the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to studying mediatised representations, this study focuses on media construals of the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius. Spanning a range of intersecting identities - he is white, male, disabled, a sports champion and a convicted murderer - Pistorius presents an important case to study. In this paper, we focus on the period from his success in the 2012 London Olympics to his 'fall from grace' after fatally shooting his girlfriend in 2013. We use a combination of corpus linguistic tools and methods, and Critical Discourse Analysis, to interrogate corpora of press articles published in major British and South African newspapers. Investigating collocational patterns surrounding Pistorius, we show how media ‘mix and match’ aspects of his identity to construct a particular kind of persona. Whereas his disability and (trans)national identity are foregrounded in constructing him as a sports hero, his new emotionality and mental vulnerability are emphasized through gendered representations in the UK while a largely individual representation dominates in South Africa, where he is referred to overwhelmingly by name and in terms of his crime as an amputee, and only obliquely as white and male. At the theoretical level, our study adds to the body of research which challenges the notion that individual experience can be understood by categorising people in terms of one identity component (gender, race, ethnicity). More importantly, it shows that different aspects of identities are foregrounded or backgrounded to navigate shifts in salience in sometimes conflicting identity/ies, and that this is accomplished differently in two different media traditions. At the methodological level, this study shows the potential of a diachronic collocational analysis to unravel patterns of intersectionality in mediatised identity constructions.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:83510
Uncontrolled Keywords:intersectionality; sport reporting; UK media; South African media; discourse analysis; corpus linguistics; Oscar Pistorius; gender; race; disability


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