Communication ETDs

Publication Date



This project examines how discourses on democratization in Zimbabwe, a country transitioning from colonialism constituted and reconstituted cultural identities. I specifically focused on discourses from both government controlled and privately owned newspapers and 18 civil society organizations involved in the struggle for democracy. I also explored the ideological implications of the newspaper and civil society discourses. The research was guided by three research questions. This research was informed by theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of postcolonial theory, democracy, identity, public and counter-public spheres. Consistent with the critical perspective that informed this project, I utilized Fairclough's critical discourse analysis to bring out the ideological implications of the discourses to various forms of identity implicated in the struggle for democracy. The newspapers were selected to give contrasting perspectives between a government controlled and a privately owned newspaper. Civil society organizations were selected based on their involvement in human rights and democratization advocacy work. Findings from the study showed that much as the rulers changed with the end of colonialism, the domination that typified colonialism did not change. The study highlighted that democracy as a value and aspiration was a contested term with various groups' conceptualizations of the democratization process informed and influenced by political affiliation. Results showed that democratization is not only about politics and economic changes but also about a cultural process that entails the re-negotiation of identity positions through discursive struggles. There are discursive struggles to fix the meaning of what constitute democracy that play out in civil society, governmental and private media forums. Discourses from both newspapers and interviews showed that the ruling party resorted to using populist discourse on land in order to regain lost political support. National and political identities were collapsed to suit the interests of the ruling party. On the other hand, the opposition emphasized human rights issues such as freedom of expression, assembly and association. The research therefore showed that not only did colonialism remain the referent point for the ruling party, but it also informed social practices. The ruling party's view of the world remained Manichean between the colonial past and the anti-colonial struggle that ended colonialism. The discourses that ensued remained trapped within the same dichotomies that had characterized social relations during colonialism.




cultural identity, democratization, democracy, media, civil society, Zimbabwe, postcolonial, critical discourse analysis, ideology, counter publics, hegemony

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Collier, Mary Jane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Cramer, Janet

Second Committee Member

Rodriguez, Ilia

Third Committee Member

Wood, Richard