How Racist Violence Becomes a Virtue: An Application of Discourse Analysis

  • E. Rosemary McKeever Queen's University Belfast
  • Richard Reed Macquarie University, Sydney
  • Samuel Pehrson Queen's University Belfast
  • Lesley Storey Queen's University Belfast
  • J. Christopher Cohrs Queen's University Belfast


This discourse analytic study examines how violence can be constructed as an honourable course of action, using the example of a leaflet circulated in the loyalist Donegall Pass area of Belfast urging the removal of the minority Chinese population. Starting from the assumptions that racism is an ideological practice that naturalises social categories and devalues members of some of them so that their subjugation and exclusion is legitimised (Miles and Brown 2003; Billig 2002), and that violence is a human activity imbued with meaning through discourse, we applied guidelines set out by Parker (1992) to consider language as a social practice that achieves specific discursive effects by constructing its objects in a particular way. Two interrelated discourses were identified: a community-focused discourse construed the Chinese immigrants as morally and culturally bereft and negated their worth, while a martial discourse focused on defending the locality against foreign invasion. An examination of themes in loyalist culture revealed ways in which the text reconstructed resonant fears, and we argue that the way the in-group constructs its character defines the racist construction of the other.
Focus: Qualitative Research on Prejudice