Brexiters and Bremainers: Categorization of individuals in online newspaper comment threads

Emma Richardson, Joanne Meredith

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceAbstract


Discussions around the EU referendum in the UK led to the construction of two distinct categories which emerged in and through the country-wide debate. During the campaign, the leave camp became known as ‘Brexiters’ and the remain camp ‘Bremainers’ These particular terms, ‘brexiter’ and ‘bremainer’ did not exist before the referendum, yet seemed to be constructed as categories throughout the course of the campaign. The result of the referendum was that the UK voted for so-called ‘Brexit’ by 52% to 48% suggesting that the country
was clearly divided. Using conversation analysis (Sacks, 1992) and membership categorisation analysis (Stokoe, 2012), this study explores the ways in which the categories of ‘Brexiters’ and ‘Bremainers’ were invoked in online newspaper comment threads. This research draws on a corpus of comments collected from 4 national UK online newspapers. Data were collected from every article which was predominantly focused on the promise by the ‘Leave’ campaign to be able to give :3350million per week to the NHS if the UK left the EU. This pledge
was key both before and after the vote, and so there were multiple stories which captured the sentiment from prior to and after the referendum results became clear. The analysis will focus on the category predicates which are associated with the terms ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’ and variations on these terms. Additionally, as online postings are ‘designedly interactional’ (Meredith & Potter, 2013), the local interactional context in which these categories are deployed will be considered. Features of the medium which may impact upon the interaction,
such as poster anonymity and sequential organisation, will be discussed. We will conclude by showing how members work to align with, and resist these, categories.

References Meredith, J., & Potter, J. (2014). Conversation Analysis and Electronic Interactions: Methodological, Analytic and Technical Considerations. In H. L. Lim & F. Sudweeks (Eds.), Innovative methods and technologies for electronic discourse analysis (pp. 370-393). IGI Global.

Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation (Vols 1 and 2, edited by Gail Jefferson). Oxford: Blackwell.

Stokoe, E. (2012). Moving forward with membership categorization analysis: Methods for systematic analysis. Discourse Studies, 14(3), 277-303.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2017
EventInternational Pragmatics Conference - Waterfront Centre, 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast
Duration: 16 Jul 201721 Jul 2017
Conference number: 15th


ConferenceInternational Pragmatics Conference
Abbreviated titleIPrA


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