“Moving” Discourse: Egyptian Bumper Stickers as a Communicative Event
Keywords:Public discourse, bumper stickers, content analysis, engagement markers, speech acts, intertextuality, identity, Egyptian, Arabic
Public discourse, including graffiti, billboards and bumper stickers, is innovative and dynamic, reflecting and often also challenging social values. While graffiti involves defacing public property, bumper-sticker (BS) discourse adds a human “touch” to a metal object, expressing the driver’s identity, and turns the street into an arena for display and communication. The few previous studies of BS discourse explore this type of discourse as a non-traditional means of communication and as a medium of political agency in different societies, with emphasis on the US and Israel. Lammie and Humphreys (2004) classify a corpus of American BSs into nationalistic, ideological, commercial, religious, and philosophical categories. Egyptian BSs, however, remain uninvestigated both linguistically and sociologically. The present paper, combining tools from content analysis, linguistics and ethnomethodology, explores how BSs function differently in Egypt based on a corpus of 581 bumper stickers on private cars, taxis and shuttle microbuses in Cairo. In terms of content, they are argued here to revolve around affiliation (e.g. sport, school, and profession), religion (as an expression of faith and/or invoking God’s protection), and ideology (e.g. photo of Guevara) among other culture-specific conceptual domains. In addition to the content analysis, the paper also analyses BSs in terms of engagement markers, speech acts and intertextuality. The paper concludes with insights regarding the dialogic interactional nature of BSs.
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