The struggle between the power of language and the language of power: Pro- and anti-vaccination memes and the discursive construction of knowledge

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Abstract

In this study we look at how pro- and anti-vaccination groups construct alternative knowledge and facts discursively and linguistically in order to challenge or support the established scientific knowledge on vaccines. Through this case study we wish to examine how the power of language interacts with a language of power when memes in creative ways mimic, produce and reproduce scientific language and practices. Drawing on a dialogical-semiotic and a discourse theoretical analytical strategy, we, first, adopt Austin’s speech act theory and Bakhtin’s concept of speech genres to argue that memes are performative with an especially illocutionary force and are made up of alien language from scientific discourses. Second, we argue that Laclau’s discursive approach to how political positions are articulated in an antagonistic terrain allows us to see vaccination memes as either subversive or supportive of a scientific social imaginary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Language and Politics
ISSN1569-2159
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2021

Keywords

  • dialogical-semiotic analysis
  • vaccination debate
  • discourse analysis
  • internet memes
  • alternative knowledge

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