“Xenophobia is an African sickness; a greater African disease”

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South Africa has long been associated with racial and ethnic issues surrounding prejudice and discrimination and, despite a move post-1994 to a democratic ‘rainbow nation’ society, the country has remained plagued by unequal power relations. One such instance of inequality relates to the marginalisation of migrants through xenophobic attitudes and actions, most notably the violence that swept across the country in 2008. Several reasons have been suggested in an attempt to explain the cause of the violence, including claims that migrants are ‘illegal and criminal’ and bringing ‘disease and contamination’ with them. This study examines the ways in which African migrants are depicted by three South African newspapers: City Press, Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times. I analysed the representations of migrants by combining Corpus Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis, paying special attention to the use of metaphorical language to which I approach through the Lakoffian Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) and Jonathan Charteris-Black’s Corpus Approaches to Critical Analysis. A significant finding in the study is the opposition to dominant discourse on xenophobia. This contrasting view shows that it is those who are xenophobic who are represented as deviant, brutal and contaminated, rather than the migrants themselves. Through the use of metaphorical language in all three newspapers, xenophobia was depicted as a ‘sickness’ which needed to be eliminated. The study concludes that although discursive elements used by all three publications play a role in contributing to an overall xenophobic and anti-migrant rhetoric, there is an increasing anti-xenophobic rhetoric on the rise.


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