Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Lyombe S. Eko
This dissertation critically examined how Barack Obama discursively constructed his Africanity (African identity/descent) within the framework of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, and how a select group of six newspapers from three continents refracted or re-presented Obama's narrative in their coverage of his campaign.
Two major theoretical frameworks underpin this study: framing and Afrocentricity. Framing analysis, an approach that allows researchers to account for frame packages, identity narratives, issue definitions, and major themes, served as the major methodological tool for this investigation. To critically analyze Obama's use of Africanity, this study focused on eight relevant speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign season, his books (Dreams from My Father and Audacity of Hope), and newspaper reports from six different countries. The media outlets studied for possible refraction and emergent frames included ThisDay (Nigeria), Daily Nation (Kenya), Al Ahram (Egypt), Mail & Guardian (South Africa), The New York Times (United States), and The Times of London (Britain).
Three Afrocentric themes emerged from an in-depth analysis of the selected speeches: American exceptionalism, African roots and memories of a father, and African value of community. The following themes were identified in Obama's two best sellers, Dreams from My Father and Audacity of Hope: Roots and memories of a father: distance and shame; Roots and memories of a father: negotiation, confusion and emptiness; African lineage: acceptance and Afrocentricity; and African values of community. Finally newspaper coverage refracted two themes from Obama's speeches and books: African roots, ancestry, and memories of a father; and Afrocentric values of community, with two additional subthemes of Africa outside the trope of crisis/redemption, and the old idea of Africa.
Ultimately, the results generated demonstrate that Obama's speeches, books, and newspaper constructions contributed to the shaping of his identity during the 2008 U.S. presidential race. The Afrocentric themes present in Obama's books and speeches were largely refracted by newspaper coverage. Specifically, his Afrocentric themes based on the memory of father and his Kenyan roots, and his language on togetherness, community, and working collectively, run through his books and speeches. In essence these communicative materials laid the foundations for his run for political office and, perhaps more importantly, demonstrated the effectiveness of Obama's political messaging and skill as a politician. More than that, the re-presentation of then-candidate Obama's Afrocentric narrative in newspaper coverage across the board is profound because it represents a clear departure from the old primordial ways of covering Africa by representing the continent in a positive redemptive frame.
Copyright 2013 Godwin Sikanku
Sikanku, Godwin Etse. "Barack Obama's Identity Construction and International Media Representations During The 2008 Presidential Election: A Discursive and Comparative Framing Analysis." PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2013.