“Britain’s Obama moment”: Rishi Sunak’s rise to UK prime minister viewed across intralingual spaces

30 May 2024
Conference Room

“Britain’s Obama moment”: Rishi Sunak’s rise to UK prime minister viewed across intralingual spaces

Rishi Sunak’s ascent to the prime minister’s office (25th October 2022) made breaking news around the globe. The first person of colour to lead a UK government, the representations of Sunak’s rise in domestic and international English language news outlets prompt a series of questions regarding the perception of (inter)cultural identity across intralingua-cultural spaces. This paper explores how online newspapers in different English-speaking lingua-cultural contexts, namely, the former British colonies, have espoused or contested Sunak’s self-representation. Are there echoes of empire, either as critique from a post-colonial perspective, or as shades of (implicit) white supremacy in the news discourse? Which aspects of Sunak’s identity are foregrounded or backgrounded in news narratives surrounding his persona? What role do presupposition, implicature and entailment play in constructing the news from different intralingual perspectives? The paper presents a selection of preliminary results, comparisons, and observations drawn from a purpose-built corpus of multimodal news texts published in American, Australian, Indian, Pakistani Canadian, South African and Nigerian newspapers. Adopting a theoretical and methodological framework combining approaches from intercultural pragmatics (Kecskés 2022) (multimodal) critical discourse studies (Fairclough 1995; Machin and Mayr 2023; van Dijk 1991, 1993, 1998,), and discourse-historical analysis (Wodak & Reisigl 2015), the paper aims to demonstrate that when it comes to the journalistic representation of sensitive societal issues such as race, sharing the same linguistic code does not necessarily mean sharing the same world-view.




Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London and New York: Longman.

Kecskes, I. (2013). Intercultural Pragmatics.

Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2023, 2nd edition). How to do Critical Discourse Analysis. A Multimodal Introduction. London and Ney York: Sage.

van Dijk, T. (1991). Racism and the Press Critical Studies in Racism and Migration. London: Routledge.

—-. (1993). Elite Discourse and Racism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

—-. (1998). Ideology. A Multidisciplinary Study. London: Sage.

Wodak, R. and Reisigl, M. (2015). “Discourse and Racism” in D. Tannen, H. Hamilton & D. Schiffrin (eds), The Wiley Handbook of Discourse, 372-397.