Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the Power of Its Slogans: A Critical Discourse Analysis Study

By Al Masaeed, Khaled | Cross - Cultural Communication, November 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the Power of Its Slogans: A Critical Discourse Analysis Study


Al Masaeed, Khaled, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract

Egypt, the most populated country in the Arab world, erupted in mass protests in January 2011 against the oppressive rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Protesters all over Egypt in general and in Tahrir Square in Cairo wanted Mubarak to leave. Protesters used different dialects, languages, and modes to get their message across. After 18 days of angry protests and after losing the support of the military and the US, Mubarak finally understood the message and resigned on Feb. 11, ending almost 30 years of dictatorial rule. This article builds on studies in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and its implementation of interdisciplinarity to investigate the slogans-fixed expressions, usually chosen carefully by organizers and activists, which are often chanted by political groups and protestors at demonstrations that were used during the Egyptian revolution in late January and February 2011. Moreover, the article shows how CD A-through embracing text as a dialogue and site for interaction, social goods and social languages, interpersonal relations and discourse, multimodality, and intertextuality can help to produce theoretically sound interpretation that is appropriate for the analysis of how Egyptians used the power of language through these slogans to empower themselves, challenge their government, and overthrow the former president Hosni Mubarak.

Key words: Critical discourse analysis; Egyptian revolution; Multimodality; Language and power

INTRODUCTION

The slogans of the Egyptian revolution (see Figures 1-2 below) were very powerful and worth analyzing. These slogans call for us to unpack what is in them to gain a better understanding of the way they were written, who they were written for, what purpose or purposes they have, what identity the protesters create for themselves through the language being used in this kind of text, and so much else that we can (leam) through analyzing these slogans. Barbara Johnstone (2008) posits that:

The basic question that a discourse analyst asks is "Why is this stretch of discourse the way it is? Why is it no other way? Why these particular words in this order?"...We also need to think about who said it...who the intended audience was and who the actual hearers or readers were, because who the participants in a situation are and how their roles are defined clearly influences what gets said and how. We need to think about what motivated the text, about how it fits into the set of things people in its context conventionally do with discourse...Each of there categories corresponds to one way in which contexts shape texts and texts shape contexts, (p.9)

In analyzing this kind of text (i.e., Slogans of the Egyptian Revolution), I chose to apply, besides "Critical Discourse Analysis" (Fairclough, 1995; Kress, 1989; Van Dijk, 2001; Wodak & Meyer 2009) as the main umbrella, some of the key concepts that CDA employs in studying texts. These concepts include "dialogism" (Waugh 1977), "text as a site for interaction" (Hoey, 2001), "Social goods and social languages" (Gee, 2011, a&b), "interpersonal relations and discourse" (Johnstone, 2008), "Multimodality" (Kress «fe Van Leeuwen, 2001; Kress, 2003), and "intertextuality" (Kress, 1989; Baezerman, 2004).

1. CRITICAL DISCOURE ANALYSIS

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is mainly concerned with investigating the relationship between discourse and power in society. Teun A. Van Dijk (2001) defines CDA as "a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context" (p.352).

An important perspective in CDA related to the notion of 'power' is that it is very rare that a text is the work of only one person. In texts, discursive differences are negotiated; they are governed by differences in power that is in part encoded in and determined by discourse and by genre. …

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