Communication ETDs


Abdissa Zerai

Publication Date



The study examines how the U.S. print news media discursively represented the civil war that raged from 1983-2005 between southern Sudan and the central government in the north over the tenures of three successive war-time Sudanese administrations. The study was situated within the broader theoretical umbrella of cultural studies. However, the theory of representation and postcolonial theory served as the principal theoretical frames for the study. Employing critical discourse analysis, with framing as a strategy, the study focused on five U.S. print news media outlets (three national newspapers and two national newsmagazines): The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. News articles published on the subject in the selected print news media outlets over the entire stretch of the civil war were collected and analyzed. The analysis revealed that the narratives of the selected print news media discursively constructed an ethno/racial-religious frame as a colonizing frame in talking about the southern Sudanese civil war. With respect to the portrayal of the warring parties (southern forces and three war-time Sudanese administrations), a shift of narratives was observed over the entire civil war period. While the ethno/racial-religious discursive angle remained the same throughout the civil war period, the news narratives' portrayal of the warring parties oscillated depending on the nature of Washington's policy toward Khartoum's regimes. It was argued that the news discourse of the civil war focused exclusively on the ethno/racial-religious dimension in explaining the locus of the southern Sudanese civil war, and in so doing, excluded the role of colonial legacy, which could have shared the same discursive terrain, as an important explanatory factor for the southern Sudanese predicament. This colonial legacy, among other things, encompasses the institution of the north-south divide, the emergence of a sectarian political structure, and the contribution of the Condominium in the Sudanese national identity crisis. The study outlines the implications of such representations and portrayals and articulates some of the loci of the U.S. news media's analytical impoverishment with respect to reporting events on the African continent. Finally, the study makes some suggestions as to what the U.S. news media might do to improve the way they cover crises on the continent.




media, representation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Cramer, Janet

First Committee Member (Chair)

Collier, Mary Jane

Second Committee Member

Rodriguez, Ilia

Third Committee Member

Shunkuri, Admasu