Race, pigskin, and politics: A semiotic analysis of racial images in political advertising

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Abstract

This paper analyzes a televised political advertisement run by David Perryman against former Congressman J. C. Watts in the 1994 Fourth District Congressional race in Oklahoma. Relying on Roland Barthes' conception of the rhetoric of the image - what I refer to as critical semiotics - the paper investigates the four sign systems at work in the ad: photographs, written language, spoken language (narration), and moving images. The analysis demonstrates: how the sponsor of the ad uses the trope of the 'Afro' as the primary signifying image; that the ad argues against Watts' candidacy by implicitly appealing to audience members' (voters') negative associations of blackness with inferiority, criminality, and perceptions of black militancy associated with the black power movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-191
Number of pages23
JournalSemiotica
Volume167
DOIs
StatePublished - 2007

Keywords

  • African
  • Americans
  • Black militancy
  • Political advertising
  • Rhetoric of the image afro

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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