The conjunction of a French rhetoric of unity with a competing nationalism in New Caledonia: a critical discourse analysis

Margo Lecompte-Van Poucke*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    France and New Caledonia are currently involved in an ongoing debate surrounding the independence of the latter from the former that will lead to referenda in 2018–2022. The main stakeholders in the negotiation process are France, the Caldoche population of the island agglomeration and its Kanak inhabitants. Most critical discourse studies analyse texts as expressions of power entrenched in monologues. In this paper, however, the debate between the social actors is seen as a plurilogue. The study argues that the dominant interactants propagate a rhetoric of unity and homogeneity, aiming to further marginalise the Kanak people and other minority groups in New Caledonian society by rendering them invisible. It further argues that the French political power aims to persuade the other groups to accept the reality of a common destiny as a given truth. The paper combines Systemic Functional Linguistics and Pragma-dialectics, and incorporates postcolonial and poststructuralist perspectives into a critical study of discourse samples, taken from a larger corpus of French data, across various genres and registers. The analysis reveals that the French rhetoric of unity is built upon Republican principles inherent to neo-colonialist ideology. It also shows that the French rhetoric is being reproduced by local settler interactants, based on values that pertain to Caldoche nationalist ideology. Both French and Caldoche ideologies are in discord with Kanak socialist ideology. By exposing the existing power inequalities the study does not only contribute to defending the Kanak minority discourse, but also emphasises the rights for recognition and self-determination of the Kanak indigenous people of New Caledonia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)351-395
    Number of pages45
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • critical discourse analysis (CDA)
    • systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL)
    • pragma-dialectics
    • postcolonial discourse
    • Pragma-Kanak
    • Caldoche


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