Language and prejudice: a critical discourse analysis of social media representations of blackness in China

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Recent years have witnessed deepened diplomatic ties between China and Africa. However, there remains a discrepancy between the friendly rhetoric at the state level and anti-African and anti-Blackpeople hostility at the grassroots level. While a myriad of studies has been looking at the social, political, and cultural aspects of Sino-African relations, less attention has been paid to the racial aspect, such as discursive representation and stigmatization of blackness and Africanness in China. However, by no means can we overlook it, given that misperception and discrimination may bring backlashes to the Sino-African ties, as well as result in unwanted psychological impacts to the prejudiced. Therefore, to enrich the current understanding of racial issues in China, this study, deploying critical discourse analysis, investigated the online racial discourse produced by Chinese Internet users, uncovering the construction of the dichotomy between the positive Chinese self-representation and the negative other-representation of Black people. In total, the study analyses 2766 posts and 13,477 comments related to the 2021 Shadeed Abdulmateen murder case, in which an African American teacher in China killed his Chinese female student. All data were collected from Weibo, one of China's largest social media platforms. Primarily, the examination of the current study consists of two levels: the thematic analysis (the initial-level analysis) maps out the general contents and the discourse topics of our data; Critical discourse analysis (namely in-depth analysis), an established tool for examining social inequality and power asymmetry reproduced in and through discourse, uncovers the discursive strategies being used in identity construction, argumentation, and other linguistic realizations. Specifically, we adopted Discourse Historical Analysis (DHA), which is a well-equipped tool for analyzing the complexity of discursive identity construction. Following DHA, we examined the five discursive strategies (i.e., nomination, predication, argumentation, perspectivisation, intensification and mitigation) and the associated lexico-grammatical features for exploring positive Self and negative Other presentations. Taken together, the current study intends to illuminate how the self/other identity finds its expressions in Chinese digital media, how blackness and Africanness are portrayed and stigmatized discursively, and finally, how racial ideologies negotiate with each other so as to form the racial hierarchy in China.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2023
Event8th International Conference on Grammar & Text - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 28 Jun 202330 Jun 2023


Conference8th International Conference on Grammar & Text
Abbreviated titleGRATO2023
Internet address


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