Interpreting Stereotypes: Images and Text

Mohammed Alhuthali


While the concept of resemiosis is critical in multimodal analyses, in practice the focus often falls on understanding the individual semiotic resources in use and their interaction (intersemiosis). This paper uses the framework developed by Martin and White (2005) of affect (how do we feel about the images), judgement (how is this influenced by the social norms in use) and appreciation (how do we read the image) in order to structure an analysis of resemiosis. This forces attention to how judgemental this process is, what type of assumptions are made by the observer and how the observer’s interpretation may vary from that of the original creator.

This paper studies a two frame cartoon and considers how we might evaluate this using the concepts of affect, judgement and appreciation. In this case, the reader of the cartoon is clearly meant to identify positively with the second interaction (both what is being said and how). However, it is worthwhile to note that in both frames, the street sweeper is presented completely passively – either as an object of pity or to be helped – lacking any agency in their own respect.

By taking full account of the concepts of appreciation and judgement, this allows us to also consider if there are other interpretive frameworks. These may lead the observer to read the image in a manner very different to that intended by the original author.

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