The "War on Terror" Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality

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The War on Terror Narrative analyzes three types of data—presidential speeches, U.S. media discourse, and focus group interviews—to provide a longitudinal and holistic study of the formation, circulation, and contestation of the Bush administration's narrative about the "war on terror." The narrative sustains, in Foucault's terms, a "regime of truth" by placing boundaries around what can meaningfully be said and understood about the subject. Adam Hodges illustrates that even as social actors resist the narrative and the policy it entails, they appropriate its language to be heard and understood. While this often works to strengthen the narrative, discourse is inevitably reshaped as it enters into new contexts. This recontextualization allows for the introduction of new meanings, and therein lies the potential for resistance and social transformation. Hodges argues that applying ideas on intertextuality to the analysis of political discourse is central to understanding the way micro-level discursive action contributes to macro-level cultural narratives like the Bush "War on Terror" narrative.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Adam Hodges moves sociocultural linguistics forward by providing an analysis of the intertextual series involved in such well-known turns of phrase as the "War on Terror" and "You're either with us or with the terrorists"; phrases that have become the currency of the last ten years of our political dealings with large portions of the Middle East. Written in a crystalline style where the data is allowed to stand on its own, while still woven with theoretical insights, this riveting work follows the trail of the "War on Terror" narrative from presidents' to pundits' to students; lips. This timely work stands as an excellent example of the difference linguistic scholarship can make when applied to contemporary problems."—Norma Mendoza-Denton, University of Arizona

"This book is more than a wonderful record of a key moment in recent US political rhetoric; it is also an exemplary work of critical discourse analysis. Adam Hodges carefully maps the trajectory of a discursive item ("war on terror") from its presidential point of origin to its mediatized circulation in the news and, most importantly, to its uptake in the talk of citizens. Combining richly sourced critical/social theory and meticulous analyses of talk/texts, Hodges demonstrates how this opportunistic (and, so it seems, short-lived) "regime of truth" was not neatly or simply reproduced, but also revised, reshaped and resisted by supporters and opponents alike."—Crispin Thurlow, University of Washington

"This book is the most comprehensive and best documented study of a metaphor that has framed a huge part of contemporary consciousness, legitimized the military policy of a superpower, and underwritten infringements of civil liberties: the war on terror. It in no way diminishes the horror and seriousness of what happened on 9/11. What it does is document in scholarly detail the way in which the way in which presidential discourse framed these atrocities as an act of war, replacing its initial framing as a crime. Adam Hodges shows in exemplary detail how this choice of frame plays out its consequences in the subsequent public discourse, how it entered the public sphere, and how it spun out its implications in aggressive and repressive acts. The strength of this study is in its integration of insights that come from conceptual metaphor theory with insights arising from the tradition of discourse analysis."—Paul Chilton, Lancaster University

"A significant book, not only because it contributes forcefully to the study of narrative and political discourse but also because its author has done us a service by documenting and critically engaging the ongoing enregisterment of a developing national disposition." —American Anthropologist

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Adam Hodges is Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2. The Characterization of 9/11 and America's Response to Terrorism Chapter 3. The Narrative's Part-Whole Textual Interdependence Chapter 4. The Construction of Al Qaeda and Iraq as Linked Antagonists Chapter 5. Intertextual Series: Reproduction and Resistance in the Media Chapter 6. Talking Politics: The Narrative's Reception among College Students Chapter 7. Whose Vietnam?: Discursive Competition over the Vietnam Analogy Chapter 8. Conclusion Appendix A. Corpus of Presidential Speeches Appendix B. Transcription Conventions for Presidential Speeches Appendix C. Transcription Conventions for Focus Group Interviews Media Discourse Data References Index

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