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“Eating bats is batshit crazy” — Stance-taking and the discursive construction of Chinese culture on Twitter upon the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Title: “Eating bats is batshit crazy” — Stance-taking and the discursive construction of Chinese culture on Twitter upon the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic
Author(s): Autio, Roosa
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in English Studies
Specialisation: no specialization
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Abstract:
This Master’s Thesis aims to explore evaluative language directed at Chinese culture in an online context upon the appearance of COVID-19. To achieve this objective, this study was guided both theoretically and methodologically by the stance triangle (Du Bois 2007). The stance triangle acknowledges three stance acts—evaluation, positioning, and alignment—that co-occur in each stance. An additional objective of the present study was to gather all info obtained from the stance triangle in order to determine the discursive construction of Chinese culture. Thus, the concrete research questions were as follows: 1. How do Twitter users evaluate Chinese culture on Twitter and position themselves in relation to other Twitter users and Chinese culture? 2. How do interlocutors align with each other's utterances on Twitter? 3. How do interlocutors represent Chinese culture on Twitter at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak? As hypothesized at the early stages of this research, in addition to issues within the immediate realm of well-being or survival of people, the emergence of COVID-19 surfaced much fear and confusion online. To inspect the opinions of people regarding Chinese culture upon the appearance of COVID-19 online, Twitter was chosen as the platform of interest. The data consisted of a tweet posted on Bill Maher’s Twitter account, which contained a video clip from YouTube promoting an episode of the late-night tv-show as an addition to the text. Additionally, a total of 52 responses were also included in the study. The results of the present study show that, overall, stances on Twitter were versatile both in their content and intensity. In relation to the first research objective regarding evaluation and positioning, it was observed that even though the stances were versatile, the vast majority evaluated different entities of Chinese culture in a negative manner. In regard to the second research question, the Twitter users sought alignment by referring to statements made beforehand or by high-ranking officials or prestigious institutions. In terms of representation, this thesis argues that Chinese culture is presented as unsanitary, unethical, and as a future threat to the rest of the world.
Keyword(s): Evaluative language stance representation Twitter language COVID-19


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