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Title: A social semiotic investigation of historical narratives in history textbooks from Hong Kong and Japan
Authors: Akashi, Tomoko
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2017
Abstract: Using a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approach, the present study examines how national identities are discursively constructed and negotiated through historical narratives found in junior secondary history textbooks from Hong Kong and Japan. The term 'nation' has been conceptualized in many different ways, reflecting the different social, historical, political and cultural contexts where this term is used. In the present study, a 'nation' is viewed as 'an imagined community' (Anderson, 1991:6), which is not historically and socially fixed and stable, but a socially and historically generated cognitive construct. 'Socially generated' here means that this cognitive construct (i.e. a nation) is represented and shared in various discourses in any given society. Discourses play a crucial role in constructing and negotiating how we see our 'nation,' thus forming our collective national identities (i.e. the self-categorization and self-alignment to the imagined community called a 'nation') (Koller, 2012). Among various discourses in society, the present study focuses on historical narratives represented in historical textbooks. The teaching of history is a discipline potentially fraught with all sorts of political overtones, since the quasi-official views of our pasts narrated in education has significant impact on the formation of national identity (Korostelina, 2008). The representation of the nation(s) in history education helps develop perceptions of a shared past; legitimizes our past, present and even our future; and construes 'reality' and 'truth.' Taken together, these factors help reinforce and perpetuate the construction of the nation(s) through the societal and commonsensical discourse far beyond school years (Fairclough, Mulderrig and Wodak, 2011).
The present study focuses on how linguistic and visual resources contribute to constructing the portrayal of an in-group, 'Us' and an out-group, 'Them' (van Dijk, 1998) and how these resources also invite readers to align themselves with the social groups constructed by history textbooks in the representation of the Second World War. In the case of antagonistic relationships, such as those which exist in discourse regarding the War, paradigmatically adversative perspectives are considered to be prominent. The text analysis adopts the Systemic Functional approach, namely from the perspectives of Transitivity (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014; Teruya, 2007), Appraisal (Martin and White, 2005) and Visual analysis (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2006), and examines how visual and linguistic resources contribute to construe the portrayals of in-group 'Us' and out-group 'Them' (van Dijk, 1998) in the textbooks. The findings of the text analyses are considered in relation to the contexts in which the history textbooks operate (i.e. educational and social). The findings show that history education in both Hong Kong and Japan aims at a similar goal - to nurture the sense of belonging to the community (national identity) and to prepare students for global citizenship. I demonstrate how history textbooks from the two contexts deploy different strategies (i.e. the choice of semiotic resources) to achieve this goal, reflecting the different social roles the country/area played in WWII (i.e. Japan as the aggressors and Hong Kong as the aggressed). The clear understanding of the roles played by semiotics resources in the construction of the national identities taught at schools has the potential to encourage /prepare students to critically engage not only with the historical discourse but also with the ideological discourse in general with which they are surrounded in the society.
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
History -- Textbooks
Discourse analysis
History -- Study and teaching -- Japan
History -- Study and teaching -- China -- Hong Kong
Pages: xiii, 257 pages : color illustrations
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