Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Discursive Construction of Power in Nigerian Online Narratives of Rape


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




Social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, etc., have brought about a paradigm shift to human communication by privileging ‘muted voices’ in the society to freely express themselves. Victims of rape, especially the female folk, are examples of these muted voices in Nigeria. The society imposes silence on them because of social stigmatization. This study, therefore, explores the shifting power role that online networks avail the Nigerian girl child and women to break the imposed silence by constructing dynamics of repressive narratives that deconstruct their oppressors’ idea of power over them. Drawing on van Leeuwen’s Social Actor Model and Janks and Ivanic’s Emancipatory Discourse, the study examines different discursive strategies, such as metaphorization, categorization, beneficialization, and honorification rape survivors employ in their narratives to assert themselves, construct power, expose perpetrators and contest specific institutionalized forces that suppress them. Purposively selected posts and comments on rape across five online forums in Nigeria form the database for the study.