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Title: Female visibility/representation in Saudi Arabia : a critical multimodal/discourse analysis of the 2013 IKEA catalogue and press discourses on Saudi Arabia
Authors: Taher, Ender Abdulahad T
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study examines gender representation in Saudi Arabia using combined approaches of Multimodal Social Semiotics (MSS) and Critical Discourse Studies (CDS). The thesis conducts a critical analysis of both advertisements and media discourses. The former focuses on verbal and visual analysis of the 2013 IKEA catalogue (in Arabic and English), and the latter pertains to the verbal and visual discourse of ‘Western’ newspapers’ portrayal of Saudi Arabia in their coverage of this particular catalogue issue, i.e. removal of female images from the Saudi version. The aim of this study is to investigate both the discursive practices in the catalogue and in the press coverage so as to deconstruct the issue of female visibility in Saudi Arabia and how publication of the catalogue would provide a suitable discursive opportunity for stereotypical representation of Saudi Arabia as the ‘Other’. Two overarching questions guide the analysis in the thesis: (1) how were females represented in the 2013 Arabic IKEA catalogue, which was distributed in Saudi Arabia? (2) How do the examined newspapers discursively represent the social actors when reporting the exclusion of females? In light of these questions, the thesis undertakes a twofold analysis. The first is a verbal linguistic analysis of both the catalogue in Arabic and the news reports covering the issue. The subject of analysis for the linguistic representation of males and females in the Arabic version of the catalogue mainly examines the masculine and feminine forms in morphosyntactic categories, in order to determine the audience in the language used by the catalogue. A qualitative data analysis software tool, MAXQDA, is used to obtain accurate results that describe the frequencies of the examined variables. In terms of media discourse, approaches from CDS are utilized to analyze the discursive representation of the social groups involved. Following CDS notions of Self and Other representation (KhosraviNik 2015), the subject matter of this research involves examining how stereotypes of Self and Other, in terms of gender equality in Saudi Arabia, may have been applied by IKEA and in subsequent coverage of the perceived problem. Analytical tools from the Discourse Historical approach, Sociocognitive approach and Socio-semantic approach are incorporated in the analytical design to answer the research questions. The second part of the twofold analysis for this study is a visual analysis of the UK and Saudi editions of the 2013 IKEA catalogue as well as the images accompanying the news reports, based on the Multimodal Social Semiotic approach, mainly drawing on Kress and van Leeuwen’s Visual Grammar (1996, 2006). More specifically, the visual representation of social ii actors in the IKEA catalogues is examined in terms of how the social actors are positioned in the visual representation as well as the ways they would be related to the prospective viewer. Therefore, CDS tools are utilized to study lexical and grammatical choices in language while the visual characteristics are deconstructed through Multimodal tools. The findings reveal a sharp contrast between the textual and visual representations of females in the catalogues. Females are linguistically visible within the Saudi edition but are visually excluded, which revealed IKEA’s linguistic sexism. Conversely, linguistic and visual representations in the newspapers complement each other and reveal the ways in which news sources construct Saudi Arabia in the context of women’s rights, as certain negative themes associated with Saudi Arabia emerge, e.g. ‘backwardness’ and ‘the oppression of women’s rights’. The analysis further reveals that women’s rights is a common discourse in this context, with a tendency to be accompanied by discourses that perpetuate stereotypes of Saudi women being ‘oppressed’ and ‘invisible’. Such representations are inherently linked to a wider critique of Orientalism and negative Other representation of Islam in the mainstream ‘Western’ discourses on Saudi Arabia.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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