An age of massive protests

January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment


“We decide”, a claim in Barcelona streets.

We live in an age of massive protests. The Arab springs (2010), the concentrations of the ‘indignados’ in Spain (2011), occupy movements (2011), Catalan rallies (2010-2014), Euromaidan protests in Ukraine (2013), or the demonstration against terrorism in Paris (2015). All of them are of very different nature, but gathering crowds of people in the streets claiming for a social or political change. Some of these protests scaled to violent episodes, meanwhile others were just a political or social claim peacefully expressed by the citizenship. Social and political science scholars, and also communication analysts, are working to better understand how public discourse and media are ordering the meanings of these massive protests: how are they framed in the newspapers, which images are having an impact in the public opinion, why some aspects of the protests are highlighted meanwhile others are just banalized or taken for grant, which meaning is attached to thousands of people in the street fostering a social or political change? Language use is never innocuous or meaningless, and metaphor analysis can offer a good tool to understand how media and journalists attach specific meanings to the demonstrations. Jointly with my colleague Arantxa Capdevila, we have worked on how 2012 protests in Catalonia were covered by major newspapers in the country. The research is bridging the previous project on political conflict with a new one we have started to analyze metaphor use in conflicting issues, not just in politics but also in science and sports. Among our conclusions we found that a major metaphor is explaining the demonstration in the realms of nature: “The people is a current of water”. This metaphor use is displaying in different scenarios where the people acquires a very different level of agency as actant in a story of political change. But meanwhile some stories treat the people as a potentially dangerous power, other narratives explain the event considering the participants as a potential useful power to social and political change. As we state in the conclusions, Madrid and Barcelona-based newspapers offer a very different account of the demonstration:

The Spanish papers minimized the agency of the people and cited them as problems for national interests; the Catalan papers showed the demonstrators as expressing the desires of the entire nation. The micronarratives in these texts represented the people as a danger to the establishment (the state) or as a powerful force to change the establishment and establish a new one.

Read more on this at Castelló, E & Capdevila, A (2015) Of War and Water: Metaphors and Citizenship Agency in the Newspapers Reporting the 9/11 Catalan Protest in 2012, International Journal of Communication, 9: 612-629.


Adapting Historical Narratives: a fruitful academic event

March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nice conference at De Monfort University (Leicester, UK) titled Adapting Historical Narratives this week. Organized at the Centre for Adaptations of the Faculty of Humanities, the conference was a fruitful chance to meet interesting people working on a wide range of topics in the field of adaptation. In my panel, Julia Nitz (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg) presented a paper entitled ‘Photographic Narratives in Ken Burns’ The Civil War”, which offered an insightful analysis of how Burns used photography in his documentary on the American Civil War. I also had the chance to know the work of two other young and promising researchers from Belgium. They contributed in the panel I chaired on Nation, Conflict and History. They are Christophe Collard (Free University of Brussels) and Gertjan Willems (Ghent University). Collard offered a broad analysis of the broadcast of the ‘fake’ current affairs program ‘Bye, Bye, Belgium’, linking it to the paradigm of ‘remediation’. He studied the characteristics of the program and its response by the audience. Willems studied the film ‘The Lion of Flanders’ (Claus), based in the novel of the romantic Flemish writer H. Conscience. His presentation offered not only deep analysis but also we knew about some  curiosities, like the fact that the French actors appearing in the film were all recruited among Dutch. The conference, organized by Deborah Cartmell and Claire Monk, was also a chance to know the journal ‘Adaptations’. In the conference, I presented my work on the narratives on Catalan TV about the Spanish Civil War. More here.

Narratives of conflict on Spanish and Catalan television

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Neighbourhood squabbles or claims of right? Narratives of conflict on Spanish and Catalan television

Hugh O’Donnell, Glasgow Caledonian University
Enric Castelló, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona

It is in the explanation of conflicts that narratives of confrontation are most clearly deployed. In the definition of the problems, in the roles embodied by the different subjects, in the lexical choices made when referring to territories or symbolic objects, we establish differences in terms of how such confrontations are (to be) understood. These narratives are articulated through structures which work to construct the origin of the problem, the solution, the victim or aggressor and so on. Applying a narratological analysis, the aim of this article is to offer a set of key elements for understanding news constructions of the — essentially political — conflict among nations and regions within Spain. Starting from a study of five cases and a comparison of ten TV news items from both the Spanish (TVE) and the Catalan (TVC) public-service channels concerning recent conflicts, the authors attempt to throw light on the ways in which different and divergent conceptions of the same set of problems are presented from a “national” point of view.

Keywords: Catalonia, narratology, news narratives, political conflict, Spain, television

In: Narrative Inquiry 21:2. 2011. (pp. 191–212)

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