visual metaphor in political discourse

john flowerdew ENJOHNF at CITYU.EDU.HK
Thu May 20 09:37:09 UTC 1999

There has been a lot of controversy recently in Hong Kong over the right of
abode of people from Mainland China who have Hong Kong relatives, but whom
the government is trying to prevent from coming to live in Hong Kong. Among
the protests I have noted a lot of what I might call visual metaphors, or
symbolic acts. For example, anti-government politicians attended the
legislative council in black suits and wearing white carnations to
symbolise the purported 'death' of the rule of law in Hong Kong. At the
same time Mainlanders in Hong Kong who are likely to be sent back shaved
their heads, as the Cantonese word for hair and death are homonynms. During
the colonial period there are also many examples of such symbolism that
spring to mind. For example, the British Hong Kong GOvernor was on one
occasion presented with a turtle, to symbolize how he was ignoring a
particular social issue.
The purpose of my message is to ask discourse analysis colleagues in other
countries whether they find similar phenomena in their own political
cultures i.e. is visual metaphor possibly a universal of political
discourse, or is it peculiar to, or more predominant in, certain cultures,
such as Hong Kong.
A related question is whether there are references to this in the
literature which colleagues could point me to.
Looking forward to your responses.
John Flowerdew
City University of HOng Kong

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