How a society tells a story about itself
: Journalists' accounts of the enduring and contradictory nature of Muslim representation

  • Nadia A Haq

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis provides an important contribution to understanding how continuity and contradiction, reproduction and contestation can co-exist within the representation of Muslims in the British press. Existing research based largely on the analysis of media content reflects how Muslims are represented in disproportionately negative ways that draw on historical, often Orientalist stereotypes while portraying British Muslims as the problematic outsiders of British society. While these studies show how Muslims are represented, they often cannot explain why journalists represent Muslims in these ways, or for why tensions, differences and contradictions can also be found in press coverage. To provide this missing insight, the thesis shifts the empirical focus away from media content towards in-depth qualitative interviews with journalists to examine the enduring reproduction of negative Muslim representations and why spaces for resistance and contradiction can coexist alongside these representations.
This thesis makes three key contributions to existing scholarship on the representation of Muslims in the media. Firstly, it offers an empirical contribution by providing a much under-researched insight into the perspectives of journalists themselves about how they report on Muslim-related stories. Secondly, it presents a theoretical contribution by problematising the subordinated role that journalists play under theories of media hegemony and highlighting how their critical consciousness can contribute to the contestation of negative representations from within their media structures. Thirdly, the thesis offers a normative contribution through the often-dissonant and dilemmatic accounts of journalists. This finds that a critical re-conceptualisation of market-led and ideological conceptions of audiences and the British public, and of the often rigid and ritualistic ideological interpretations of journalistic norms and values, can shift the balance of negative representation away from its reproduction and reposition Muslim representations from a starting point of inclusivity rather than difference.
Date of Award25 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorTariq Modood (Supervisor) & Therese O'Toole (Supervisor)

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