Chapter 13. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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Incumbent president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, currently serving her second term, is the first democratically elected female head of state in modern Africa. During the 2005 and 2011 elections, Sirleaf strategically performed multiple discursive identities, appealing to both male and female constituents. This qualitative pragmatic discourse analysis supplemented by quantitative data, reveals media stylizations of Sirleaf ranging from that of a “grandmother” to the “Iron Lady” to “Ma Ellen,” mother of a country. The present study demonstrates the gendered and non-gendered discourses Sirleaf employs, and introduces the theoretical framework of gender-neutral, gender-polar and gender-biased text. The political brands Sirleaf discursively establishes for herself are compared with and contrasted to brands of the Liberian president as styled by international media.


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