Reading the national: shifting subjectivities in a stateless nation

Hugh O'Donnell

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This chapter analyses the ways in which Scottish, British and European subjectivities are reproduced in The National, an openly pro-Scottish-independence newspaper launched shortly after the unsuccessful independence referendum of September 2014. The term “subjectivities” refers here to the range of “subject positions” (left-wing/right-wing, social-democratic/neoliberal etc.) which the paper makes available to its readers. While the chapter pays due attention to captions and other textual elements – analysed using tools borrowed from semiotics – its main focus is on the graphic design of the paper’s front covers, most frequently dominated by a single image occupying around three quarters of the available space. These images are subdivided into various categories. The argest group, accounting for around 45% of the total number of covers, features actors mostly from the world of politics. Individual exposure here is intense, with seventeen of the actors accounting for 60% of the images in this group. The second largest group of front-cover images, accounting for around 40% of the overall total, are metaphorical in
nature and work to provide the larger ideological frame of The National’s journalistic output. Foucauldian discourse analysis is used here to map the discursive universe created in relation to such questions as Scottish independence and the recent UK vote to leave the EU. The clearest finding is that the plasticity of subjectivities – as opposed to the relative fixity of identities – has allowed a debate on nationhood to be simultaneously a debate on political ideologies: social democracy as an alternative to neoliberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPutting a Face on It: Individual Exposure and Subjectivity in Journalism
EditorsBirgitte Kjos Fonn, Harald Hornmoen, Nathalie Hyde-Clarke, Yngve Benestad Hågvar
Place of PublicationOslo
PublisherCappelen Damm Akademisk
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9788202522148, 9788202589523, 9788202589547, 9788202589554
ISBN (Print)9788202522148
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Scotland
  • Independence
  • press
  • subjectivity
  • identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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