Discourses around national identity and citizenship in British, American and German newspapers

Schleef, Erik

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Previous research on the discursive construction of the nation in media discourse has shown again and again that the media tends to construct an ideologically and culturally homogenous nation (van Dijk 1993, Blommaert & Verschueren 1998, Wodak 1999, Blackledge 2002, Bishop & Jaworski 2003, Ricento 2003). Although the specifics of such constructions may vary within a nation, they nonetheless tend to be visions of homogeneity. This presentation pursues the question of variability between nations, with a particular focus on the discursive construction of the nation in relation to immigration. It aims to detect the elements of nation and citizenship discourses by investigating nations with very different histories of immigration – the US, the UK and Germany.

The data for this project derive from American, British and German ‘quality’ newspaper articles on a new citizenship test in each of those countries the day after such a test was announced. The presentation focuses on a content analysis, elements of discursive evaluation of the test and the role of the immigrants in these articles. Analysis suggests that in all three countries homogenous nations are constructed in particular in relation to society and values, history, language and geographic territory. However, evaluative comments and the inclusion of the immigrants varies from country to country. It is argued that this is a reflection of personal and constructed histories as well as experiences with the idea of immigration which allows much more assimilationist discourses to emerge in US newspapers, while British and German newspaper articles are centered respectively on a discussion of Britishness and Germanness.

Session: Paper session
Dicourse 2 (Identity)
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 11