African climate activism, media and the denial of racism: The tacit silencing of Vanessa Nakate


Critical social studies have highlighted the varied methods by which climate activism is reproduced in discourse. This paper examines an incident in which an African youth climate activist, Vanessa Nakate, had her image cropped out of a media photograph taken at the World Economic Forum. Our analysis focuses on three media-based interactions with Vanessa, including two interviews with local (Ugandan) television stations and one interview with a South African broadcaster. Our analysis utilizes discursive psychology (DP) and conversation analysis (CA) to highlight and problematize the discursive and interactional strategies employed by speakers in these interviews. We note three discursive methods by which Vanessa’s activism is challenged: a challenge to her ability to represent ‘African’ climate activists; an undermining of Vanessa’s claim that her exclusion was racially motivated; and a discourse of emotionality as foregrounding irrationality and incompetence. These three discursive strategies serve to delegitimize Vanessa’s larger claim of a racially motivated act, positioning her as a naïve subject acting alone from a point of self-interest. We discuss the implications of our findings for future research in community psychology and African climate activism.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v6i2-2p71

Keywords: Africa, climate activism, discourse, racism, women


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