Representations of boko haram in political cartoons on Nigeria’s digital space

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Representations of boko haram in political cartoons on Nigeria’s digital space

  1. 1. Representations of Boko Haram in political cartoons on Nigerian digital space: Implications on mobility By Michael A. Kombol, PhD Department of Mass Communication, Benue State University, Nigeria michael.kombol@gmail.com Presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, ASA, Baltimore, MD 21st -24th November 2013
  2. 2. Initial inspirations • Cartoonists. Nigerian cartoonists may be afraid of terrorism but they are not afraid to draw and poke fun at it. • Significance. Thus, what is the significance of these political cartoons. • Digital space. Furthermore, what happens when these political cartoons find expression online in digital space?
  3. 3. Mobility of ideas and mobility of people “… mobility of ideas is intertwined with mobility of people and knowledge.” … lundmark (2010, p. 3)
  4. 4. Research Questions 1. How is Boko Haram depicted in political cartoons placed on online editions of Nigerian newspapers? 2. In what way(s) are depictions of Boko Haram in political cartoons (placed on online editions of Nigerian newspapers) counter narratives (or otherwise) against extremism and terrorism?
  5. 5. Research Questions. ,… contd. 3. What are the metaphors used to represent Boko Haram in political cartoons placed on online editions of Nigerian newspapers? 4. What is the directionality of the metaphors which are used to represent Boko Haram in political cartoons placed on online editions of Nigerian newspapers?
  6. 6. Theoretical Perspective • Conceptual Metaphor Theory • Originally by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) with the publication of Metaphors we live by. • This theory has origins in Linguistics but is relevant here as well due to an examination of metaphors used in political cartoons.
  7. 7. Conceptual Metaphor Theory • According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980) there are two conceptual domains. 1. Source domain. 2. Target domain. Source domain- consists of a number of attributes and relationships stored in the mind. Target domain- Largely abstract and takes its structure from the source domain via the “metaphorical link.”
  8. 8. Boko Haram as a source domain • Boko Haram as a source domain conjures a lot of images and attributes in the human mind based on the acts of terror it perpetrates. • On the basis of these mental impressions, metaphors of Boko Haram (target domain) are constructed, especially in political cartoons. • Cartoonists will only draw what is in their minds that is based on existing social reality.
  9. 9. Conceptual clarifications • Political cartoons- are caricatures which explore current events by advancing opinion and criticism. Also referred to as editorial cartoons. • Mobility- Like people, ideas too can be mobile from one mind to another. Thus, there is physical mobility of people and the mobility of ideas. • Narratives- Stories told which highlight specific facts.
  10. 10. Types of political cartoons • According to Press (1981) there are three (3) types of political cartoons, namely: 1. Descriptive cartoon. (Neutral) 2. The laughing satirical cartoon. (presents ongoing political debate) 3. Destructive satirical cartoon. (intended to damage subject referred to)
  11. 11. “Extended typology” of political cartoons • Manning and Phiddian (2003, p. 31) extended the typology of political cartoons by adding a fourth (4th) category. - Cartoons displaying savage indignation. These cartoons explore pressing social issues and is not concerned with the legitimacy of the status quo.
  12. 12. Functions of political cartoons as free speech • • • • • Intergral element of democracy. Serves as a system of checks and balances. Promotes healthy criticism. Holds public officers accountable to the people. “a licence to mock the king” …. Seymour-Ure (1997, p.2) • Moulders and reflectors of opinion. Caswell (1982, p.4) • Facilitate public debate on controversial issues.
  13. 13. Boko Haram • In Hausa language, “Boko” means book while in Arabic, “Haram” means forbidden. • McCaul et al (2013, p. 7) translates “Boko Haram” as “Western education is forbidden.” • Started in 1995 under the name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad” which translates to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” • This name was changed to “Boko Haram” after the September 11th terror attack in the United States. • The group is know for carrying out violence and other acts of terror especially in North Eastern Nigeria.
  14. 14. Motivations to “Terror” in Nigeria • Globally- the dominant narrative by terror groups across the world is poverty, humiliation, oppression and intimidation of Muslims across the world. • Existing social conditions in Nigeria. • Inability of the Nigerian government to administer society. • Popular distrust of the Nigerian government. • Religious extremism and intolerance. • Regional allegiances.
  15. 15. Significance of counter narratives in cartoons of Boko Haram • Counter narratives are stories aimed at discrediting the ideology and belief systems of extremist groups. • Counter narratives are “coherent system of interrelated and sequentially organized stories,” which are deeply ingrained in culture. Halverson, Goodall and Corman (2011, p. 14) • Counter narratives are meant to “…. deter, disrupt and defeat terrorist groups. Casebeer (2008, p. 653). • The battle against terror is not only about aggression and physical force but is indeed a war of ideas.
  16. 16. Methodology • Takes a qualitative approach using Focus Group Discussion in order to identify the counter narratives, metaphors representing Boko Haram in the political cartoons and the directionality of these metaphors- whether they were: neutral, negative or positive.
  17. 17. Selection of political cartoons • Using five (5) research assistants, the study selected twenty three (23) political cartoons from the websites of Nigeria newspapers as well as other discussion sites that post political cartoons. • The criteria for selecting these political cartoons was depiction of Boko Haram. • Digital visibility i.e. location of the political cartoon online was a significant criteria for selection. Political cartoons on the pages of print issues of Nigerian newspapers were not selected for this study. • Each of the 23 political cartoons were printed for analysis in the FGD.
  18. 18. Focus Groups • The study randomly selected sixteen (16) people to participate in the Focus Group Discussions (FGD) based on availability. • This group was split into two in order to compare the findings between the groups. Thus there were two (2) groups of eight (8) each. • Members participated in the FGD were ordinary everyday professionals (teachers, nurses, doctors, clerks, etc.) in Nigerian society who during the course of their lives have online access and would inadvertently see these political cartoons.
  19. 19. Variables • Counter narratives- the FGD were required to examine the political cartoon and state whether there were inherent counter narratives and also give a description of the counter narrative where it was perceived to exist. • Metaphors- The FGD were required to describe the metaphors representing Boko Haram in each of the political cartoons. • Directionality of the metaphors- the FGD were required to state the directionality of the metaphors of Boko Haram in the political cartoons- neutral, positive or negative.
  20. 20. Findings • Counter Narratives. All the political cartoons analysed expressed counter narratives about Boko Haram for example, the political cartoon in figure I (see Appendix I) portrays Boko Haram as a tyrant on a killing spree without regard for negotiation. • Metaphors. The metaphors used to represent Boko Haram are varied namely: bombs; arrows; skulls; scoundrels; horned monsters; villains, bandits, burning fire; skin headed brute; octopus, etc. • Directionality. The directionality of the metaphors representing Boko Haram in the political cartoons are all negative.
  21. 21. Conclusion  The findings of this study collaborate the conclusions reached by Lundmark (2010, p. 3) “… mobility of ideas is intertwined with mobility of people and knowledge.” On this basis, the study predicts “placement of political cartoons about Boko Haram online provides digital presence which facilitates global mobility of ideas on the subject and may influence physical mobility of people to parts of Nigeria where Boko Haram activities are prevalent due to the counter narratives and negative metaphors which represent Boko Haram in the political cartoons.”
  22. 22. Conclusion “…, contd.” Findings of this study re-affirm the central tenets of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Boko Haram is indeed a “source domain” which conjures a lot of images in the minds of people due to the terrorist activities which it carries out in Nigeria. These are stored in the minds of people and become the basis for the metaphors which are used to represent the organisation. Due to the frequency of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the group, it is only logical that the metaphors which represent the group will be negative.
  23. 23. Conclusion “…, contd.” The counter narratives contained in political cartoons (in this study) are indicators of free speech and the need to stand up against terror and Boko Haram. There is the need to raise voices against the group by recounting the misdeeds which it perpetrates. The war against terror must first be won by ideas by the influencing the ideas which go back and forth in people’s minds.
  24. 24. From North Eastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram hold sway, “Sanu-nku” Thank you all for listening

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