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A Corpus-based analysis of the Construction of Identities in the BBC Sitcom Citizen Khan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Unpublished
  • Bilal Kadiri
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Publication date2017
Number of pages378
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Place of PublicationLancaster
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

An abundance of studies post 9-11 have critically evaluated the representations of Islam and Muslims in the media. In spite of this, very little work has focused on portrayals of Muslims in fictional television programming. This thesis aims to address this gap by investigating language usage and the construction of identities in the BBC sitcom Citizen Khan, which is centred around a family living in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. In order to carry out this analysis a 40,000 word corpus was created, consisting of transcripts of the thirteen episodes from the first two seasons of the sitcom.

The analysis utilised an array of different analytical tools and approaches to carry out an in-depth textual and visual analysis. Corpus software was used to carry out an initial quantitative analysis which identified salient aspects of identity within the sitcom. This was followed by a qualitative analysis which employed a modified version of Fairclough’s 3 stages of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) framework to assist in interpreting the data from a wider contextual standpoint. Incorporated into the framework were aspects of Conversational Analysis and Multimodal Analysis, in order to provide evaluation of some of the textual and visual aspects of the programme.

The analysis indicated that the lead character Mr Khan has a hybrid of intersecting identities: Pakistani, British and Muslim; and his negotiation of these multiple identities was used by the writers to generate humour. Due to aspects of the Muslim and Pakistani identities overlapping with one another, the scriptwriters employed negative stereotyping around Pakistanis within the sitcom, as opposed to directly stereotyping Muslims as a whole. The findings also identified an association between Pakistani and family identity, with aspects of Pakistani culture dictating the dynamics within the household. Namely, through the importance attached to producing male offspring, coupled with Khan attempting to construct himself as the patriarch of the family and Mr and Mrs Khan’s first names never being revealed to the audience.

The gendered identities of the characters were also found to be intersecting with other facets of their identity. A visual analysis identified a correlation between Khan’s usage of good girl and his religious expectations for his daughters. Additionally, analysis of male-related terms indicated Khan’s views were male-centred, with him drawing upon constructions of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchal order. Overall, the study identified that Citizen Khan reinforced negative stereotyping of Pakistanis and Muslims. However, by portraying Muslims in a normalised setting on a primetime slot on BBC One, despite its many flaws Citizen Khan could be seen as providing a positive step in the right direction in enabling more diverse and honest representations of Muslims in the media.