Thursday, 29 October 2020

The first online meeting of the Inequality, Culture and Difference research centre, will be held on Wed 28/10/2020 13:00 - 14:00 where we will be joined by our very own Jamie Williams and David Wright, talking about their fascinating research on the UK governments' daily communications with the British public during the coronavirus pandemic.


Pronominal ambiguity and ascriptions of responsibility in the UK daily coronavirus briefings

Jamie Williams

David Wright

Nottingham Trent University

Within political discourse, pronouns have been highlighted as important linguistic features due to their inherent ambiguity, and their roles in creating distance or closeness and accepting or denying responsibility for actions (Fetzer and Bull, 2008; Mulderrig, 2012). These issues are pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic, as governments attempt to clearly communicate guidance to the general public, as well as describe steps being taken to slow the virus’ spread. Within the context of the United Kingdom, one of the worst affected countries globally, we investigated how pronouns were used by governmental speakers to administer responsibility and whether they contributed to reported criticisms of ambiguity in the government’s communications (Oliver, 2020).

A corpus of 92 political speeches, totalling 117,779 words, was constructed based upon official transcripts from the UK government’s website. Focussing on the use of the first person plural (1PL) pronouns, 3,045 concordance lines were analysed to identify (1) their referent – particularly if they carried an exclusive (we – the government) or inclusive (we – the country) reading, and (2) the transitivity patterns these pronouns act as Participants in (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014).

We argue that the UK government uses the inherent ambiguity between the exclusive and inclusive readings of this pronoun to mitigate their own portrayed responsibility for controlling the spread of the virus. We argue that they do so through at least two means. Firstly, when using 1PL pronouns in an exclusive manner, although they represent themselves overwhelmingly as Actors, they obscure the precise details about the measures they are taking. Secondly, when using the 1PL pronouns in an inclusive manner, they represent the British public as co-Actors in processes they have no control over and indeed are usually considered to responsibility of the government themselves.


Fetzer, A. and Bull, P. (2008) 'Well, I answer it by simply inviting you to look at the evidence': The strategic use of pronouns in political interviews. Journal of Language and Politics, 7(2): 271–289.

Halliday, M.A.K. and Matthiessen, C.I.I.M. (2014). Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar, 4th Edition. London: Routledge.

Mulderrig, J. (2012) The hegemony of inclusion: A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of deixis in education policy. Discourse and Society, 23(6): 701–728.

Oliver, D. (2020) Covid-19 highlights the need for effective government communications. BMJ, 369: m1863, DOI:

Friday, 29 November 2019

The Inequality, Culture and Difference research seminar series is proud to present…
Re-enactment and Critical History
Angelos Koutsoukaris, University of Leeds
Wednesday 13th November, 1-2pm MAE101 – ALL WELCOME!

Reenactment as a mode on inquiry about the past and as an artistic practice has recently become prevalent. Reenactments of the American civil war, of WWI and WWII have turned to tourist attractions in the USA. Reenactment is also an in important mode of practice in television but also in theatre and performance art with many experimental groups, such as the Wooster group, re-enacting past performances by theatre practitioners such as Jerzy Grotowski, but also documented events like the infamous Town Hall affair that took place in 1971 in New York. In cinema, recent films like The Act of Killing (2012), The Look of Silence (2012) and Theatre of War (2018) extend a cinematic tradition of reenactment firmly rooted in the works of Jean Rouch, Errol Morris, and Peter Watkins. 
In this paper, I intend to join the scholarly conversation on documentary reenactment going beyond the memory studies debates that have become prevalent in the academy in the past three decades. I am interested in thinking about reenactment as a mode of inquiry and practice that is not just in service of commemorating victims from the past. Instead, I want to look at how reenactment can enable us to recover untold stories from the past with the view to troubling linear approaches to history rooted in the Enlightenment paradigm.

Angelos Koutsourakis is a University Academic Fellow in World Cinema. He is the author of Rethinking Brechtian Film Theory and Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), Politics as Form in Lars von Trier (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013) and the co-editor of The Cinema of Theo Angelopoulos (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). He is currently co-editing (with Thomas Austin) Cinema of Crisis: Film and Contemporary Europe (Edinburgh University Press, 2020).

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Translating Girlhood in Mustang (2015): Locations of Style, Political Context and Audience Reception

Image result for mustang 2015 filmAs part of the conference "Female Agency and Subjectivity in Film and Television", which took place at Istanbul Bilgi University (April 11-13, 2018),  Cüneyt Çakırlar presented his paper in the panel "Translating Girlhood in Mustang (2015)" with Özlem Güçlü (MMGSU) and Elif Akçalı (Kadir Has University). 

Focusing on the Turkey-born French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut film Mustang (2015), the panel explored diverse modes of critical analysis to locate the film’s national and transnational framings of gender politics. Mustang tells the story of five orphaned sisters living with their grandmother and uncle in a remote Turkish village. Focusing on these five characters’ rapport with the conservative and segregated gender order in which these girls are “trained for” and forced into arranged marriages, this unconventional coming-of-age story capitalises upon solidarity, agency and resistance rather than a defeatist drama of spectacular victimhood. However, the film has received differing reviews: while the international reviews were celebrating it as a feminist text of rebellion and female empowerment, the local (i.e. Turkey-based) reviews were more sceptical of the film’s engagement with the national political context. The panel questioned the functions of film style, the political context of cinema, and audience reception in locating Mustang’s ideological operations in terms of national politics, (trans)national feminism, and the theoretical frameworks of national/transnational cinemas. Özlem Güçlü argued that Mustang’s formulation of female agency and subjectivity can be considered as exemplary of new female narratives in the contemporary cinema of Turkey. Cüneyt Çakırlar focused on the film’s formal/stylistic choices and the extent to which these choices reify a transnational feminist accent while undermining the local intricacies of gender politics. Finally, Elif Akçalı discussed the differences in the film’s reception by critically exploring local and international reviews of the film.