Discursive Strategies of Legitimization
The Case of Abortion in Ireland in 2018
Keywords:Critical Discourse Analysis; abortion; national identity; strategies of legitimization.
The following article is based on a study on abortion discourse carried out in Ireland in 2018 prior to and after the Referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution allowing for legislation to be introduced regulating termination of pregnancy. Its main focus was to identify the strategies of legitimization employed by both online users and campaign bodies in the period directly before and after the historic referendum to create the possibility to legislate for abortion in Ireland. The study also aimed at examining how the discursive strategies engaged in creating identities on both a national level and also of the collective voter groups. The corpus included unregulated textual and regulated visual data collected between May and June 2018. The textual data derived from the Facebook pages of four prominent campaigning bodies from both sides of the referendum one month before and after the referendum while the visual data originated from photos taken of the campaign posters displayed in Ireland. Critical Discourse Analysis formed the conceptual framework of the study: the study employed Reyes’ (2011) model of strategies of legitimization in political discourse as well as the two visual analysis frameworks as proposed by Van Leeuwen (2008) and Ledin and Machin (2018). A mixed-method approach in the format of a triangulation design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007) was used, whereby qualitative textual and visual discourses were transformed into quantitative data for the purpose of analysis. The findings indicated that the strategy of emotion was the most utilized; this became apparent through the quantitatively high use of terms such as ‘rape’, ‘incest’ or ‘murder’, in order to provoke an emotional reaction in the message perceiver. The results also pointed to high instances of ‘othering’ strategies of the different groups participating in the discourse.
Keywords: Critical discourse analysis; abortion; national identity; strategies of legitimization.
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