Ethnic Stereotyping on Kenyan Blog Sites in the 2013 Political Elections: A Spurious Harbinger of Ethnic Discord

Ethnic Stereotyping on Kenyan Blog Sites in the 2013 Political Elections: A Spurious Harbinger of Ethnic Discord

Nabea Wendo (Laikipia University, Kenya)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0081-0.ch014


This paper presents results of an investigation into ethnic stereotyping on blog sites in g Kenya's 2013 political elections. The study, which was hinged on the taxonomy of stereotypes model, sourced data from two ethnically based blog sites, thus and From over 80 posts on the blog sites, purposive sampling was used to identify eight posts which were deemed appropriate in view of the objectives of the study and the theoretical grounding. Results showed that ethnic stereotyping revolved around thematic areas such as marriage and ethnicity, culture and ethnicity, communal aggrandizement and ethnic divide and arbitration. It also emerged that language was a potent tool for stereotyping. The paper has however shown that the ethnic stereotypes that issued on blog sites during Kenya's 2013 electioneering were unfortunate, because though largely spurious, they had the potential of influencing people as they went to the ballot box.
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Ethnic stereotyping is a phenomenon that has been used in Kenya over the years, especially for humour purposes. It is common in schools and universities drama productions, among friends and peers, and in the mainstream radio and television stations. Matsumoto (2002) argues that stereotyping is universal and is used for different purposes. While stereotyping has been inherent in the mass media as spelt out by van Dijk (1986) and Adare (2005), a similar trend appears to take place in the social media today. The social media comes in various forms such as websites, emails, blogs, Facebook, WhatsApp, 2go, MySpace, twitter and so forth. These media are developing fast and becoming complex due to their ability to incorporate all the other aspects of the main stream media. Just like the conventional media, the social media have the potential to influence people’s perceptions and thinking due to their communicative power. This is because the internet is rapidly becoming a serious communicative channel, besides the fact that its material can easily flow to other media channels (Nabea, 2009).

Semin (2008) and Carnaghi and Yzerbyt (2008) argue that stereotypes do not take place in a vacuum, but are informed by context. However, while stereotypes can be used for constructive purposes (Lewis 2003, Nevo 2003), they can cause damage when not used tactfully (Adare, 2005; Schauer, 2003; Byrd & Clayton, 2003). For example, when stereotyping is not used responsibly, it can degenerate into negative ethnicity or worse still, hate speech, especially when communities are lampooned. Negative ethnic typecasting has lately become rampant on the Kenyan social media, and tends to incline to people’s political affiliation, especially during the electioneering. This is a worrying trend considering that hate speech has been blamed for partly playing a role in the 2007/2008 Post Election violence in Kenya (Kriegler Report 2008; Waki Report 2008). Yet, the dissemination of negative ethnicity narratives on the social media present a challenge in view of the fact that it is difficult to arrest and prosecute hatemongers as a result of the nomenclature of the media in question. For example, registration on social media is inchoate, while the country’s legislation fails to be in tandem with the fast dynamics of the field. This paper therefore set out to investigate ethnic stereotyping on the Kenyan blog sites during political elections with a view to finding out to what strategies bloggers use to perpetrate ethnic divide.

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