Legitimation of violence against women in Colombia: A feminist critical discourse analytic study

Laura Tolton (2009). Legitimation of violence against women in Colombia: A feminist critical discourse analytic study PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Laura Tolton
Thesis Title Legitimation of violence against women in Colombia: A feminist critical discourse analytic study
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Guy Ramsay
Dr Neyla Pardo Abril
Dr Isolda Rojas-Lizana
Dr Roland Sussex
Total pages 226
Total black and white pages 226
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary This study analyses the legitimation of violence against women in Colombia, using critical discourse analysis to explore attitudes related to violence, gender, and power. Internet forums from the website of the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo provide everyday examples of talk about two incidents of violence against women (VAW), a sexual assault and a wife-beating, both of which triggered a large scale reaction from the Colombian public. Colombia is a unique context to study the normalisation of VAW. This nation has been characterised by high levels of violence over the last sixty years, suffering through evolving stages of armed conflict. Militarisation has been shown to increase the occurrence of VAW (Kelly, 2000), and the normalisation of VAW may intensify as well in militarily violent contexts (Hume, 2004; McWilliams, 1998). Critical discourse analysis offers theory and methodology to examine an aspect of life in terms of social justice and power (Fairclough, 2003; Resende, 2009), denaturalising the discursive practices which help to produce and reproduce power relations between social groups (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997; van Dijk, 1993). This study examines legitimation, a social action realised in discourse, which has the goal of setting and reinforcing a certain social order. The project also explores how legitimation in these forums is tied to Colombian culture and the topic of VAW. Drawing on the methods of van Dijk (1988, 1998, 2001) ,Wood and Kroger (2000), and grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008), multiple readings of the forums elicited salient themes as well as discursive strategies used to carry out legitimation of VAW. These were analysed in terms of underlying social beliefs prevailing in Colombian society. Dominant themes emerging from analysis of the sexual assault forums include: ‘“real” violence is more important’; ‘this incident was not a big deal’; ‘it’s her fault anyway’; and ‘she should have appreciated it’. These manifest the dominant strategies and structures of contrasts, minimisation, victim blaming, and romanticisation/sexualisation, respectively. Analysis of the wife-beating forums reveals the following themes: ‘this is not related to me’; ‘wife-beating is a private issue’; ‘domestic violence is normal and even important’; ‘it is the victim’s responsibility to change’; and ‘the victim deserves this violence’. Dominant strategies included respectively: distancing explanations and solutions, discourses of privacy, normalising violence, focusing on the victim, and victim blaming. The forum analyses illustrate how legitimation relates to Colombian culture and the topic of VAW. Numerous elements of culture and topic are used to criticise women’s agency and suggest that women ought to be passive and silent. In one culture-related example, the Colombian reiteration of violent events works to silence women’s stories about their experiences of VAW. Another strong element of culture is found in Colombian sayings and proverbs presenting a common knowledge discourse normalising VAW as romantic, sexual and necessary. Discourses used more universally to justify VAW include the idea that women belong in the private sphere and the psychopathologisation of women as attention-seeking and slutty. These elements work together to suggest that women are strong, sexual, and dangerous, needing violence from an authority to keep them uncomplaining and submissive. This work can inform future studies about discourse concerning VAW in Hispanic contexts, sketching in a little-studied disciplinary intersection. As this research participates in the aims of feminist critical discourse analysis, it is hoped that the present study will also be used for critical campaigns aimed at media specialists and educators so that they may create greater awareness and promote change, pointing out and discouraging these discourses legitimating violence against women in Colombia.
Keyword feminist critical discourse analysis
violence against women
wife abuse
sexual assault
Spanish linguistics
Colombian culture
online newspaper forums

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Created: Mon, 19 Apr 2010, 15:54:27 EST by Ms Laura Tolton on behalf of Library - Information Access Service