Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Multimodal Representation of Sub-Saharan Immigrants as Illegal: Deconstructing Their Portrayal as Victims, Heroes and Threats in a Sample from the Spanish Press 1

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Multimodal Representation of Sub-Saharan Immigrants as Illegal: Deconstructing Their Portrayal as Victims, Heroes and Threats in a Sample from the Spanish Press 1

Article excerpt

The media shape our thinking and may contribute to socio-political change by promoting criticism and reflections about the social realities transmitted in the different news reports. Taking into consideration the influence of media discourse in the mental models of people, it is important to perform an analysis on this type of dominant discourse in order to establish the position of journalists when they analyse social reality concentrating specifically on the misuses of power, social control and domination.

In this sense, the media are important in the creation of public debate and public opinion due to its power to create the image of others, including minorities. This is significant if news items deal with the representation of immigrants because, depending on the way the media in general and the press in particular portray them, the audience may have a different view of the said immigrants.

This article will show that the press has power to shape or to modify people's attitudes because each image and each linguistic component are not chosen at random but, on the contrary, are motivated and created as the result of the complex phenomenon of multimodal discourse that is readily able to convey precise, nuanced and yet also ambiguous, connotative meanings.

Generally, the press highlights the differences between 'we-they' (the Spanish population-immigrants). This is a socio-political dichotomy which points up the fact that immigrants are the 'others', those who are not in positions of power and who are different to the main group. This is particularly evident when dealing with sub-Saharan immigrants because of their being black. For this reason, this paper intends to study how sub-Saharan immigrants are represented, linguistically and visually, as illegal in samples from the Spanish press. The main research questions we will attempt to answer in this article are the following: How are these immigrants portrayed from the linguistic and the visual point of view? How is the idea of illegal sub-Saharan immigrants created through discourse?

In this sense, this paper will be a critical analysis of the way in which the said press portrays such immigrants as illegal, and the ideological effects for the audience of the newspapers. The language and the visuals chosen to refer to the minority being studied establish a dialogue with society and contribute to the creation of a specific ideology because the different linguistic and visual choices represent and reproduce social realities. For this reason, the principles of critical discourse analysis (CDA) will be taken into consideration in order to deconstruct how the press represents social inequality and power between different groups of society, in this case, between the Spanish population and sub-Saharan immigrants (see section 3, 'Results').

The article is organized into the following sections: section 1 consists of a review of the literature; section 2 presents the objectives, data and methodology; and section 3 presents the results, followed by a discussion in section 4. Finally, the article offers some conclusions based on the study.

1. Literature Review

The illegal migration of Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans to Spain and Italy has been subject to media debate (Ennaji 2004). 'Illegal immigration' refers to the migration of human beings across national borders to enter other countries without permission, which violates the immigration laws of the destined country (Newton 2008). It is a socio-political phenomenon that has taken place in the last decades particularly, normally from a poorer to a richer country, although illegal immigrants are not normally the poorest in their countries of origin. However, it is generally believed that the illegal immigrants who enter a country without permission are uneducated, take jobs away from citizens of the countries they arrive in, and refuse to acculturate (Bacon 2008; Dauvergne 2008; Guerra Salas and Gómez Sánchez 2011; Pham 2014). …

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