The management of accusations of racism in Celebrity Big Brother

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    The 2007 UK series of Celebrity Big Brother drew considerable attention to Britain as a result of the alleged racist bullying of Bollywood film star Shilpa Shetty by four British celebrity housemates. At stake in these allegations was any perception that Britain as a country promotes inclusivity and discourages racism. In this article, we examine, through an analysis of the exit interviews conducted with the four housemates in question, how accusations of racism were made by the host of Big Brother, and how racism was almost made to disappear in the interviews. Specifically, we elaborate on how racism was constructed not simply as an individual aberration, but more precisely as a matter of perception. We then explore how the host of the interviews avoided making accusations of racism herself by implying that it was others who perceived the behaviours of the housemates as racist, and by using other words (such as 'bullying') rather than explicitly referring to racism. We conclude by outlining the implications of our findings for future discursive research on racism, and we emphasize the need to further explore how rhetorical strategies aimed at denying racism operate in the service of shoring up privileged identities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)257-271
    Number of pages15
    JournalDiscourse and Society
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2010


    • Accusations of racism
    • Celebrity Big Brother
    • Race privilege


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