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2. Article`s overview
This paper is an analyse of the research conducted by Rosie Walters, PhD in Politics at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies of Bristol.
Walters wants to understand how the case of the Pakistani journalist Malala Yousafzai has been presented in the UK newspapers. By using a discursive analysis, Walter finds out an emancipatory discourse about the young activist. Walters` aim is here to understand if this occidental view can tell us something about the West itself. Outcome of this research is an unequal relationship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan, it is a gendered and orientalistic discourse which shows interesting (expected or not) “prejudice” of the British media discourse.
Aim of this paper is to analyse the methodologies and theories Walters uses and how these help the author to explain the outcome of the research.
The protagonist of Walters` research is the Pakistani activist Malala Zousafzai.
It is important to have a background knowledge about the topic. Malala Yousafzai is a young feminist activist fighting for the rights of education of girls in Pakistan. She was born in 1997 in Mingora, the largest city in the Swat District of Pakistan. (Doeden, 2015: 9).
After the USA invaded Afghanistan, after the 11th September 2001, the Taliban fled to remote parts of Pakistan, like the Swat District where they found support in the population. (Doeden, 2015: 14) But Malala was only interested in going to school and actively promote female right to education. Malala was shot when she was only 14 years old by a group of Taliban which use to claim to be strongly against female education. Malala survived the bullet wound; she was medically treated in Pakistan and then transferred to an English hospital.
Walters wants to analyse the discourse about Malala used in British journalist articles and focusses on the question about how the English media described her. Is there a predominant occidental view and prejudice against the orient?
She analyses the content from a poststructuralist, feminist and postcolonial approach that should explain us how the West sees the East (orientalism discourse) and at the same time tells us more about the west itself.
In order to analyse the articles Waters decides to use Doty`s concepts of predication, presupposition and subject positioning. The key approach she uses here in order to connect all her studies is intertextuality.
As mentioned above, Walters analyses this topic from a poststructuralist, feminist and postcolonial approach. She wants to understand the portrayal about the East and find out if they can tell us something about the West. Walters mentions the colonial approach, sometimes this can perpetuate the portrayal of former colonial people as static while the feminist approach reproduces axioms of imperialisms, with its assumes that they (the West) have to rescue the third world women. But Walters` aim is to understand which image these representations can give us about the West.
The poststructuralist approach consists “of a loose grammar of concepts and logics that can inform the exploration of problematized empirical phenomena” and it embraces a large mix of methodological techniques and strategies. (Howarth, 2013: 269) It includes discourse analysis, which is used in this research. According to Walters the premises of the poststructuralist analyses is the assumption that racism and sexisms are discursive. Discourse Analysis is an approach to language that can be applied to several text forms, like in this case, articles. This kind of analysis implies philosophical works, like the one from Foucault (1926-1984). For Foucault the discourse is a term which explains how several linguistic categories are related to an object, and how the way the discourse depicting this object influences the way we think about it. (Bryman, 2016: 531)
Feminism in political science analyses the political relationship between gender and power. (Randall, 2002: 109) Since the topic of this research can be considered as highly gender oriented Walters decides to get help from this approach. The combination of feminist, poststructural and postcolonial analysis shows that racist and gendered discourse is the result of social relations within the UK and within international politics, but at the same time this kind of discourse influences these relations.
Qualitative research is an approach to research which focuses on words rather than numbers. (Bryman, 2016: 375) The term qualitative methods refers to several research techniques which include observation, intensive individual interviews. (Devine, 2002: 197) The research Walters presents is mainly qualitative, even if she uses some statistical data.
In this paragraph, we will discuss the methodology used by Walters.
Walters gives an outline about her research design before structuring it, she uses the three concepts of the researcher Roxanne Doty`s work on discursive foreign policy analysis, which are: predication, presupposition and subject positioning. Finally, she discusses the outcome. In order to connect her research questions with the results she uses Intertextuality, key to this approach, which tries to understand the logic of the text. Following this approach, the expected result should be the outcome of a dominant discourse, which will tell us how the British newspapers present Malala.
Moreover, Walters defines clearly the timetable and the spatial frame, she analyses national newspapers published between 9th October 2012 and 21st July 2013. She chooses five newspapers and searches the word Malala in it. The chosen newspapers are: the Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sun and The Telegraph. The outcome of the research is 223 articles, Walters analyses all of them.
An important factor to consider, according to the author, is the biography and personal details of the authors of the articles here analysed. Walters did some researches about them, the outcome is that the majority of them is male; just 26 articles were written by Pakistani and, although the feminist topic, only 6 of these were written by Pakistani women.
As mentioned above, Walters uses Doty`s approach of predication, presupposition and subject positioning, first used in 1993. According to Doty this textual mechanism allows to “read” popular culture. (Shepherd, :199) Under predication, Doty understands merely the nouns; under presupposition she understands background knowledge and under subject positioning, last methodological concept, the grammatical analysis of the subjects and the study of their position in the discourse. (Shepherd: 199)
In the first part of predication, Walters introduces three constructions, which come from the text analysis of the articles: Malala as a little girl, Taliban as extremely Muslim and a better British medical treatment than Pakistan.
- Malala as a little girl: she is called “the 14 years old girl” even when she gets 15, the word girl or even teenager, is used much more than the word young woman. The resulting view on Malala is the young, idealistic campaigner for children`s right, rather than a feminist activist.
- Talibal as extremily muslim (portrayal of Muslim masculinities): western masculinity is implicit in the discourse of British articles. The description of what the Taliban did wants to undermine Taliban`s masculinity which depicted as sexual frustrated, motivated by ancient prejudice. The qualities attributed by the newspaper to this attacks implies an masculinity inferiority, abuses, medieval, regressive atrocities, brutal, barbaric or even evil. The discourse on Muslim masculinity is here of violence and fanaticism without any political aim.
- Construction of difference in Malala Yousafzai`s medical treatment. Pakistani hospitals involved in Malala`s treatment are mentioned only 10 times. The focus is set on English medical staff and English hospitals. The outcome of the articles is clear; when they talk about the British treatment they use words specialist treatment, experienced surgeons, Surgical procedures while they refer to Pakistan only with simple terms like Treatment or Doctors. In order to give the predication a sense Walters shows three presuppositions with examples from the articles.
- Feminism is on the side of the West: according to the articles, the assumption is that girls in Pakistan have only a passive role. In the article of Robert Crilly for example, politicians are much criticized, he says that it is the political will, which is missing. Moreover, the dominant discourse sees Malala as the victim; journalists use the word feminist only twice. Therefore, the assumptions here to do are two: put feminism on the side of the west; reluctance in British discourse to debate feminism or to attribute feminism to a campaigner for girls` rights. The journalist Angela McRobbie contributes with an explanation: feminism is entirely successful in countries like UK and USA and so no longer relevant; women in the west no longer need feminism while women in the East cannot have it.
- The Pakistani Taliban as `extremely Muslim`: Taliban movement was born in the 80s in response to the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the education field, since the British imposed the education system, the madrasas completely changed. Moreover, the interpretation of the Taliban raising in response to the western offensive is completely missing in the British newspapers. The author mentions another relevant journalist, Imran Khans, his article is the only one, which tries to explain the aim and specificities of the various Taliban groups, and it identifies western intervention as one of the causing factors for their raise.
On the contrary, we have to remember that there are discourses of authors, like Galloway or Wood, which reduce the population of Pakistan to merely religious fanatics.
- A caring Britain: Narayan says that in colonial discourse Britain has been given the quality of the caring one, Britain is the powerful and privileged country. If we consider the medical treatment, the superiority given in the media to the English hospitals and staff is very blatant.
After the prediction and the presuppositions, following Doty`s approach, the Author proposes the positioning of subjects. Malala is presented as the one in need of help, key word is here passivity. Despite being, a specialist in the field of female right to education Malala is described as expert just 47 time over 424 quotations. This discourse presents Pakistan as a country in need of help as well. Malala and her country of origin have a completely passive role.
This research method holds several limitations. The main problem is subjectivity, the outcome of the research is strongly influenced by the author`s opinion.
A critic made towards qualitative methods, is about their value and the need to be reflexive. (Devine, 2002: 197) The main problem in fact, is interpretation, the author chooses the terminology to analyse, and this means at the same time that the outcome will be highly influenced by his ideas. (Devine, 2002: 206) This method is not replicable or comparable; this does not allow the author to generalise, although Walters tries. (Devine, 2002: 204) Walters` research is limited to a certain number of articles, this is another reason why the outcome cannot be generalised. In fact, intertextuality is famous in the literature as the interpretative method in the qualitative research. Limitations of the feminist approach are usually the following: restrictedness, inefficiency and essentialism. (Randall, 2002: 127) While the main limit of post-structuralism is its relativism.
Campaigns for promoting educations of girl are nowadays very popular (celebrities, NGOs are promoting this right enormously). Although considering every single article, Walters finds words of admiration for the young activist. The result is a demeaned Pakistan and belittled Malala. It reinforces British perception of superiority and legitimises the intervention in the field of human rights. What Malala really wants is to be considered as the one fighting for the rights, but as the outcome of this research shows, she is still far away from achieving her objective.
With the help of theories and research methods, Walters concludes that the view of the West on the East is still full of racisms and gender inequalities.
The research methods she uses are very clear and methodological. She structures her study following Doty’s approach and she finds a common methodology of the intertextuality, which has proved itself to be a helpful instrument. Based on the used terminology of the UK newspapers, a dominant discourse of superiority came out, in a very clear way.
The poststructuralist, feminist and postcolonial theories help Walters to understand her research outcome and to understand what this unequal relation tells us about the West. It is the most common view that the ex-colonialist country still have the supremacy over the colonialized country of Pakistan, and that such a strong character as Malala, cannot be really considered as an expert feminist activist but only as the “shot Pakistan girl”.
Bryman, A. (2012), Social Research Methods (Fourth ed.). New York: Oxford University Press
Devine, Fiona (2002), Qualitative Methods, in: Marsh, David and Stoker, Gerry (2002) Theory and Methods in Political Science, Second Edition
Doeden, Matt (2015), Malala Yousafzai. Shot by the Taliban, Still Fighting for Equal Education, Minneapolis
Flick, Uwe (2013), The Sage handbook of qualitative data analysis, Berlin, Sage.
Howarth David R. (2013), Poststructuralism and after. Structure, subjectivity and power, New York, Palgrave Macmillan
Randall, V. (2002), ‘Feminism’ in D. Marsh and G. Stoker (eds.),Theory and Methods in Political Science, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 109–130.
Shepherd, Laura J. (2013), Critical Approaches to Security: An Introduction to Theories and Methods, New York, Routledge.
Silverman, David (2013), Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook, Sydney, Sage Publications Limited.
Walliman, Nicholas (2006), Social research methods, London, Sage Publication.
Walters, Rosie (2016), ‘Shot Pakistani girl’: The limitations of girls education discourses in UK newspaper coverage of Malala Yousafzai. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations
 Madrasas are the places where Taliban are suspected to get their education.
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