Make America Exceptional Again - Critical Discourse Analysis

University essay from Malmö universitet/Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS)

Abstract: Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this study seeks to illustrate how Donald Trump’s Inauguration Address incorporates elements of power which are embedded in various forms of American exceptionalism. Since the American myth of exceptionalism does not necessarily reveal itself at first glance, this thesis traces its variety of roots back in American history. By doing so, it explains how this myth emerged, how it became infused with power and how Trump’s rhetoric keeps it alive. The theoretical framework of this study is built on Michel Foucault’s writing on power and van Dijk’s concept of ideology. In addition, this study introduces the idea of legitimising myths in the context of Social Dominance Theory to highlight the effect ideologies have on societies. This thesis finds that some references to American exceptionalism in Trump’s speech can be attributed to the Colonial era. More specifically, Trump’s call for social cohesion, his allusions to predestination, his image of civilisation and his language on American labour bear close resemblance to Puritan discourses. Further, the theme of nationalism and limited government run through his speech, both of which are integral to American history and the myth of exceptionalism. In line with the general goals of CDA, this study exemplifies how ideologically charged language needs to be contextualised socio-historically to expose its relationship with power.

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