Mystifying through metaphors
In this paper we will focus on how metaphors are used to mystify the impact that some redevelopment plans will have on the neighbours of the affected area. We rely on the “Plan for restoring the Islamic wall” in València (Spain), which affected 200 people (40% of the population of the area) and anticipated the demolition of 16 buildings and the reuse of 17 construction sites. The project was supposed to aim at the restoration of the Islamic wall. However, the real goal of the plan was to redevelop a residential area into a tertiary one by getting rid of the neighbours.
It is widely assumed that metaphor is a salient feature of discourse whose function is twofold. Firstly, it helps make complex issues understandable to the public, and secondly, it helps promote and legitimise the ideological viewpoints of particular groups. That is the reason we are particularly interested in showing how metaphors structure our perception and understanding of reality and help promote and legitimise the ideological viewpoints of particular groups. Specifically, we will look into how the authors of the “Plan for restoring the Islamic wall” use metaphors to justify a redevelopment initiative and to mystify the impact that the project will have on the affected neighbours. We will also focus on the discursive resistance that residents, residents’ associations, intellectuals and engaged citizens opposed with to the project.
We will shed new light on how conventionalized metaphors are commonly assumed as natural ways of naming the reality, and therefore they function as a powerful device of constructing consensus and mystifying reality. Idiosyncratic metaphorical expressions (also called image metaphors), on the other hand, and less conventionalized metaphors, are not pervasive in all sorts of discourses and languages, they are not natural ways of naming reality and thus they can lead to discursive subversion.
The data for this study consists of the urban project itself, articles from newspapers, campaigns organized by the residents’ associations and round tables where architects supporting and opposing the plan discussed their points of views about the project. These discourses are analysed through the combination of the approach of critical discourse analyses (i.e. Fairclough 2003) and conceptual metaphor theory as used in cognitive linguistics (i.e. Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Chilton 1996).
Chilton, Paul (1996): Security metaphors. Cold War Discourse from Containment to Common House, New York: Lang.
Fairclough, Norman (2003): Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson (1980): Metaphors we live by, Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.