Master Narratives in US Contemporary War Discourse: Situating and Constructing Identities of Self and Other


  • Nicoletta Vasta



War discourse, Presidential speeches, CDA, otherization, master-/counter-narratives, ITFs


The present paper aims to discuss the discursive strategies of otherization, legitimation, and normalization typically found in extracts from the author’s video corpus of US Presidents’ selected official statements at the height of actual or potential armed conflicts between the First Gulf War (1990-1991) and the end of the Obama Administration (2016). The underlying working assumption is that, to consolidate asymmetrical power relationships and monitor dissent and/or win domestic consent about the use of force, the US Administration systematically resorts to a relatively restricted inventory of political myths and cultural constructs sustained by strategic storytelling and powerful master narratives, or Intertextual Thematic Formations. The qualitative analysis, informed by a systemic functional, critical discourse approach, is undertaken at both the macro- and micro-levels, with a view to highlighting how master narratives project distinct/conflicting standpoints and socio-institutional roles and identities (e.g. the-President-as-Father-of-the-Nation; the-Community-as-Protector-of-its-Members'-Interests; the-West-as-Civilizer), while feeding the myth of a ‘super-empowered’ President and ultimately sustaining the ideological square. The final contention is that awareness-raising pedagogical models are needed which work upwards from the bottom of the hierarchical narrative structure, contextualizing the master narrative and linking it to the audience’s individual narratives, so that discourse can fulfil its critical function of dismantling potentially manipulative and/or normalizing discourse practices and foster civil society-led, personal counter-narratives that remove stereotyping and oversimplification.


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How to Cite

Vasta, N. (2023). Master Narratives in US Contemporary War Discourse: Situating and Constructing Identities of Self and Other. HERMES - Journal of Language and Communication in Business, (63), 49–63.



THEMATIC SECTION: Evaluation, argumentation and narrative(s) in conflicting contexts