Tutorial Workshop


What is hidden in an image? A Critical Discourse Analysis Approach to visual texts

Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is the study of language that tries to find “indications of manipulation, legitimation and the manufacture of consent” (Van Dijk, 1995: 17). Despite being CDA such a heterogenous field with lots of sub-approaches (Hidalgo Tenorio, 2011), van Leeuwen (2009: 278) rightly states that there is a common goal underlying all of them: “the critique of dominant discourses and genres that effect inequalities, injustices and oppression in contemporary society”. Three elements are absolutely core to any approach within CDA: critique, power and ideology.

Critical Discourse Analysis has been mainly focused on the study of texts (both written and oral) and the analysis of images using this theoretical approach has not been frequently the centre of its interests. However, the society 3.0 we are all immersed in is mainly visual and most of the input citizens get comes through images so the birth of a new discipline to study multimodal discourse from a social perspective was needed. This subdiscipline called multi-modal critical Discourse Analysis (Van Leeuwen, 2012) has as its main aim to find out the semiotic resources in discourse that carry out ideological meaning (Ledin and Machin 2017: 60).

The goal of this workshop is to analyse the tools that Critical Discourse Analysis can offer researchers to analyse the ideology and power relations underlying images as well as to focus on the semiotic elements that images offer to build up ideology in the discourse.

The first part of the workshop will present some theoretical concepts from the field of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), specially based on the work by Fairclough (1989, 1995) and Wodak (Reisigl & Wodak 2009, Wodak and Chilton 2005, Wodak and Mayer 2009) as well as from the field of Semiotics (Eco 1976, Chandler 2002), Social Semiotics (Van Leeuwen 2005) and Multimodal Analysis (Kress and Van Leewen 1996) and the application of them to different types of visual discourses: graffitis, memes and photographies.

The second part will be a hands-on session in which students/researchers will put into practice in small groups some of the concepts explained earlier and share their analysis with the rest of the class for the subsequent mutual enrichment through the exchange of comments, remarks and suggestions.