Teun A. Van Dijk's Concept of 'Racism and the Press'

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005

18 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Main Part
2.1 What is Critical Discourse Analysis?
2.2 The significance of the ‘new racism’
2.3 The role of the media in the reproduction of racism

3. Analysis
3.1 Headlines
3.2 Local semantic structures
3.3 Semantic strategies
3.4 Style and rhetoric
3.5 Subjects and topics
3.6 Quotation patterns
3.7 The influence of the Press on its readers

4. Conclusions and evaluation

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

This paper is designed to examine Teun A. Van Dijk’s concept of Critical Discourse Analysis in view of racism in the Press.

At first it is important to shortly introduce the concept of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) that has been created and discussed by Fowler, Van Dijk and Fairclough. Additionally, one has to define the special kind of racism that is conveyed in the newspapers, and how it succeeds in being almost imperceptible for the reader. Here, one also has to take into consideration in what way racism becomes pivotal concerning society and societal structures.

The analysis, that adheres to Van Dijk’s concept, which he introduces and explains in ‘Racism and the Press’, will focus on six main analytical aspects, concerning the newspapers’ headlines, the local semantic structures and semantic strategies, style and rhetoric, subjects and topics, as well as an analysis of quotations patterns. Additionally, it will be explained, how and with which means the Press succeeds in influencing their readers.

All examples, which are used in this paper, are taken from van Dijk’s analysis. The possibility of a new investigation would have been attractive and interesting but would definitely go beyond the scope of this paper.

By examining and presenting Van Dijk’s concept of analysing and interpreting newspaper articles in order to find constructions of racism, it will in the end make possible to assess the necessity and usefulness of his concept.

2. Main Part

2.1 What is Critical Discourse Analysis?

Teun A. Van Dijk defines Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as an analytical research that is particularly occupied with inquiries into how ‘social power abuse’, ‘dominance’, and ‘inequality’ are acted out, reconstructed and challenged by written and spoken discourse in the social and political frame of reference.[1] The analytical research tries to comprehend and reveal social inequality and is therefore bound to restrain it. Thus, the central aspect of critical discourse analysts is the knowledge of their distinct position in the social world.

Van Dijk points out that critical research on discourse is rather concerned with social difficulties and problems than with modern ‘paradigms and fashions’ and that it is therefore generally ‘multidisciplinary’.[2] The CDA does not only describe discourse structures but makes the attempt to find explanations for them, taking into consideration features such as ‘social interaction’ and ‘social structure’. In other words, CDA concentrates on how discourse structures produce, reinforce and question ‘relations of power and dominance in society’.[3]

Significant for CDA are the many different kinds of CDA, which do not follow the same conceptual scheme and which can be completely miscellaneous in their theory and analysis.

In sum, CDA emphasizes analytical aspects such as ‘social structure’ and ‘social order’, including ‘the more familiar discourse analytical notions’.[4] Thus, the Critical Discourse Analysis investigates news reporting, political interviews, counselling and job interviews that describe ‘unequal encounters’ or ‘embody manipulative strategies’ which however the most people consider as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’.[5]

CDA is designed to ‘unmask’ those kind of ‘socio-political’ or ‘socio-cultural’ tenets that ‘have become entrenched and naturalized over time in discourse’.[6] For Van Dijk one of those strategies is racism, which has become a central aspect in preserving the social status and rank of the ‘in-group’ that tries to separate from the ‘out-group’.[7]

His special critical discourse approach therefore is intended to unravel the implicated racism in discursive processes that deal with ‘prejudice, power, dominance and hegemony’.[8]

2.2 The significance of the ‘new racism’

Van Dijk states that several studies prove that ‘western societies are racist’.[9] This modern racism consists of a ‘complex societal system’, in which peoples of European origin ‘dominate’ peoples of other origins, mainly in Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This dominance manifests itself via economic, social, cultural or political ‘hegemony’.[10]

However, we do not speak of the plain and often brutal racism that is shown by verbal or physical violence against the ethnic group which is in the minority. Peter Teo calls this type of violent racism the ‘old racism’.[11] The ‘new racism’, as M. Barker named it in 1981, is a different kind of racism, which is not overt or physical abusing but which is ‘subtle, covert and hence insidious’.[12] Those, who carry out this ‘new racism’ would definitely distance themselves from being a ‘racist’ and instead utter their belief in ‘the basic values of democratic egalitarianism’.[13] However, they take part in the spoken and written discourse, which clearly separates them, by being in the ‘in-group’, from those ethnic minorities that are part of the ‘out-group’.[14] This discourse carries the ideology that points out the ethnic differences but clearly denies a distinction of power, and ‘hence the dominance of western culture’.[15] Though the superiority of the white ‘race’ is no longer stated openly, the socio-cultural position of ethnic minorities has only been changed on the surface. Van Dijk is convinced that it is still assumed that the other ethnic or racial groups ‘happen to be backwards’.[16]

In the setting of this new racism it is important to examine the special role of the press.

2.3 The role of the media in the reproduction of racism

The reproduction of the new racism is the most effective way to preserve the hegemony of the white ‘race’. However, a dominating group can only remain in its position if it controls the means that help to guarantee this dominance: the media and education. According to Van Dijk, the media reproduces those racial arguments and prejudices, which are legally forbidden in the open discourse. ‘Reproduction’ in this context means ‘the dialectical interaction of general principles and actual practises that underlie the historical continuity of a social system’.[17] At the ‘macro-level’ reproduction manifests itself in processes, rules and laws that almost remain the same. At the ‘micro-level’ practices, such as beliefs, shared knowledge and prejudices, of group members reproduce ideological structures and arguments. This special kind of reproduction is what van Dijk calls ‘elite racism’, which helps to conserve the special racist ideologies and practices of the white elites.[18]

The reproduction of ‘elite racism’ by media at the macro-level is responsible for the reproduction by the news reports at the micro-level. In which way this reproduction is carried out will be examined in the following chapters.


[1] Van Dijk, Teun A. 2001. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” In: Schiffrin, Deborah, Tannen, Deborah, and Hamilton, Heidi, eds., Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Blackwell Publishing. 352

[2] Van Dijk “Critical Discourse Analysis” 353

[3] Van Dijk “Critical Discourse Analysis” 353

[4] Van Dijk “Critical Discourse Analysis” 354

[5] Teo, Peter. 2000. “Racism in the news: a Critical Discourse Analysis of news reporting in two Australian newspapers.” Discourse&Society 11. 12

[6] Teo 12

[7] Teo 13

[8] Teo 13

[9] Van Dijk, Teun A. 1991. Racism and the Press. London: Routledge. 24

[10] Van Dijk, Racism and the Press 24

[11] Teo 7

[12] Teo 8

[13] Teo 8

[14] Teo 13

[15] Van Dijk, Racism and the Press 28

[16] Van Dijk, Racism and the Press 29

[17] Van Dijk, Racism and the Press 33

[18] Van Dijk, Racism and the Press 43

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Teun A. Van Dijk's Concept of 'Racism and the Press'
University of Hannover
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Teun, Dijk, Concept, Racism, Press
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Alke Eilers (Author), 2005, Teun A. Van Dijk's Concept of 'Racism and the Press', Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/56988


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