The representation of the British Empire in BBC’s Burma with Simon Reeve (2018): combining multimodal critical discourse analysis and audience research to investigate the interaction between media and the audience.

Conference paper


Castaldi, J. 2020. The representation of the British Empire in BBC’s Burma with Simon Reeve (2018): combining multimodal critical discourse analysis and audience research to investigate the interaction between media and the audience.
AuthorsCastaldi, J.
TypeConference paper
Description

Over the past two decades there has been a more critical assessment of the role of the British Empire and of the ways it conducted its business in various parts of the world (see e.g. Anderson, 2005; Elkins, 2005; Tharoor, 2016; Wiener, 2008). The legal case brought before London’s High Court by a group of Kenyans against the British Government in 2009 for crimes committed in their country during the British rule, not only led to compensation to be paid to the Kenyan nationals, but even resulted in an official apology from the then Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The national coverage of this historic occurrence contributed to raise awareness amongst the public opinion of some of the crimes committed during the years of the empire by the British occupying forces. Recent national opinion polls (YouGov, 2014, 2016), however, suggest that the history of the British Empire is still seen in a favourable way by a significant part of the population, who view it as something to be proud of or as something neither positive nor negative.

The paper attempts to address this seeming discrepancy between an increased critical attention towards the British Empire and the predominant positive attitude of the public opinion towards its legacy by arguing that popular British media plays a role in portraying the Empire years in a positive or neutral light. In order to do so, the paper discusses some findings from one of the case studies that comprise my on-going research. The research is purely qualitative and combines tools from the field of Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996; van Leeuwen 2005; Machin and Mayr 2012) for the text analysis and elements of Audience Research (e.g. Schrøder et al., 2003) for the explorations of the participants’ interaction with the television programme of their choice.

Although the specificity of the case study needs to be taken into consideration, the findings point towards a correlation between the way popular media portrays the British Empire and the way audiences come to perceive it, especially taken into consideration that younger generations would have only had mediated experiences of the empire in its capacity as an occupying force. It is suggested that corpus studies could shed further light on whether the representation of the British Empire in popular media is indeed of a benevolent or neutral nature. The paper contributes to discussions in Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis and Media Studies by researching the genre of infotainment and by exploring audience’s interactions with it.

KeywordsMCDA; Audience research; Media effects; British Empire
Year2020
ConferenceICMC2020 - International Conference on Multimodal Communication
Official URLhttps://www.cognitivelinguistics.org/en/blog/detail/icmc2020-international-conference-on-multimodal-communication-cfp
Additional information

Event cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication process dates
Deposited23 Sep 2020
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