Archive for February, 2009

28 February 2009

Race-ness, gender-ness and class-ness

Quote of the day from Thomas Popkewitz and Sverker Lindblad:

It is not race, gender or class that is the central concern of research, but the production of the race-ness, gender-ness or class-ness of individuality. (2000: 23)

And, indeed, the production of individuality itself.

In their paper they outline two sets of approaches to studying the relation between educational governance and social inclusion/exclusion. What they call the equity problematic largely adopts policy makers’ discourse, aiming to improve inclusion:

Policy research becomes bound to the policy makers’ definition of the problem, taking the categories and problem definitions derived from governmental policies as the problems of research without any serious intellectual scrutiny. (2000: 6)

In the knowledge problematic, on the other hand, the construction of the categories to identify inclusion and exclusion is the focus of research:

The problem is not only access and participation, but the rules through which divisions and distinctions qualify and disqualify individuals for action. (2000: 23)

Popkewitz, T., & Lindblad, S. (2000). Educational Governance and Social Inclusion and Exclusion: some conceptual difficulties and problematics in policy and research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 21(1), 5-44. (Longer report can be downloaded here).

27 February 2009

Transcription tools for discourse analysis

Blog of the day: Tom Van Hout on Aloxecorton recommends tools for transcribing audio and video data. Including one which links to the audio/video file. Just what I was looking for.

In discourse analysis, transcribing audio or video data is a necessary evil. In this process of entextualization and recontextualization, recordings become transcripts – the textual simulacra discourse analysts rely on to analyze what and how people ‘do things’ with language.

There are number of commercial transcription tools available but if you’re looking for a basic (Windows only) speech transcription utility, I recommend VoiceWalker (if it’s bells and whistles you want, try Transana). VoiceWalker was designed by University of California linguists John W. Du Bois and Mary Bucholtz and can be downloaded freely.

In addition, a somewhat more ambitious tool is SoundWriter. This (beta) software is designed to link a transcription to the audio source file, “to help the researcher hear and visualize relationships between utterances in conversational interaction”. Download for free here.

26 February 2009

Lee: A body of individuals

lee-bodySue-Im Lee’s A Body of Individuas: The Paradox of Community in Contemporary Fiction (Ohio Uni Press, 2009) promises to be a work in literary studies using insights from, inter alia, Ernesto Laclau, to consider why different versions of the collective “we” are valued differently.

In the discourse of benevolent community, community is a tool towards achieving healing, productiveness, and connection. In the discourse of dissenting community, community that serves a function is simply another name for totalitarianism; instead, community must merely be a fact of coexistence.

The book engages with writers including Toni Morrison, Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, Lydia Davis, Lynne Tillman, and David Markson, and with theorists such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Giorgio Agamben, François Lyotard, Ernesto Laclau, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

25 February 2009

Discourse and ethnography

Leon Barkho’s paper “The Discursive and Social Power of News Discourse: the case of Aljazeera in comparison and parallel with the BBC and CNN” in the latest issue of Studies in Language and Capitalism (3/4) (p.111) combines textual (CDA) analysis with ethnographic analysis (e.g.,  observation, stories, field visits, interviews, media reports and style guidelines).

25 February 2009

NDSU and discourse theory

Fascinating glimpse into non-transparent discourse on “Composition Theory: Me, Thou, Us and Nobody”. It seems to be the course blog for a composition class at North Dakota State University. And of course, since the participants are reacting to readings and discussions they are having, it is a perfect example of a “long conversation” (Janet Maybin) from which I am excluded.

They are currently encountering discourse theory, and I am fascinated by their posts, which in addition to (i) their intrinsic interest, (ii) the successful detective feeling I get when I manage to work out what issue is at hand, and (iii) the feeling of illicitness my reading evokes, illustrate once more that “discourse theory” can have 100 meanings for 100 different people.

The class is not, as far as I can tell, engaging in Laclau and Mouffe’s poststructuralist discourse theory, nor in Habermas. Perhaps CDA, though? And I’d bet on James Paul Gee.

24 February 2009

Alternative Media and Resistance

In my search for politically and/or medially useful research (the pragmatic streak in me is growing stronger by the day), I happened upon an announcement for the book Alternative Media and the Politics of Resistance: Perspectives and Challenges, edited by Mojca Pajnik and John D. H. Downing (Peace Institute, 2008).

untitledThe book looks to be a wide range of both theoretical and more situated, analytical chapters, in which authors get to grips with what they call “nano-media.”  Contributors “discuss different “nano-media” forms and practices, which surface as tellers of truth, which serve as sites for fresh interpretations of our realities, and which often disrupt the frames and conventions of mainstream mediated communication.”

And after disrupting the frames and conventions of mainstream media, it seems to me that a signal strength of researching alternative media — or the fissures in the media — is to explore the possibilities to construct new frames and conventions in order to strengthen the politics of resistance.

23 February 2009

Guantanamo Bay and Discourse Analysis

The Duck of Minerva writes on experiences at the recent ISA conference, highlighting exceptional multimodal discourse analyses of the images of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The Duck ponders what I agree is now a pressing question: given current technologies, should academia not find a way of recognizing non-print research output (e.g., documentary films, online visual work)?

I attended several panels on discourse analysis. One panel focused on the study of images as discourse and featured two innovative graduate student papers investigating the discourse of photographs of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The two papers revealed just how powerful these images have been world-wide, impacting the understanding of the US occupation of Iraq and War on Terrorism. Gitmo, in part, has become such a powerful international symbol because of the images the world has seen of prisoners there. As a field, we have historically focused on discourse as text, privileging the primary discourses of speeches and archival records. As a discipline, we ask researchers to publish papers and present without access to LCD displays. The presenter of the Gitmo paper managed to put up some color overheads, which made her presentation significantly more effective. And my question to them was–why are you writing a paper about pictures?

It would seem to me that there is room in the field for us to innovate beyond the 10,000 word journal article and engage the Web and digital media. James DerDerian, who was discussant on one of these panels, is doing some remarkable work with documentary film. The two papers on images would be so much more powerful as multi-media enterprises but the field has no way to recognize that. And, ISA has no way to present that to a panel.

22 February 2009

RTBF and banks

Excellent investigative journalism on the Belgian television channel RTBF today. Which I had the pleasure of watching in globalised fashion on German mainstream news this evening.

RTBF sent a journalist into a leading bank, armed with a hidden camera and apparently 500,000 Euros to invest. She asks the bank advisor how she can best invest it, and he provides a good range of advice on how to avoid paying taxes. This from a bank which has just received millions in financial support from the state. From, that is, taxpayers.

Ah, the irony of it all.

Watch it on Tagesschau, 22.02.09, 22:50

22 February 2009

Republicans demand queer theory banned

CNN reports that US State Representatives Charlice Byrd and Calvin Hill (R-Georgia), supported by the Christian Coalition, have demanded that university courses teaching queer theory, sexuality, and similar subjects should be cut and the lecturers fired. They are outraged on moral grounds and state that such courses are a waste of taxpayer’s money.

Byrd seems genuinely surprised that something like queer theory could be taught at university. And her tone implies that she assumes the nation will agree with her.

An open letter on academic freedom has criticised their demands. The signators:

support our colleagues and appreciate the freedom to share knowledge, and we encourage everyone who shares these sentiments to sign our online petition and/or join our Facebook group.

22 February 2009

Queering Straight Teachers

Two books I’ve just put on my wishlist:

1. William F. Pinar (Ed) (2000) Queer Theory in Education. Lawrence Erlbaum

2. Nelson M. Rodriguez and William F. Pinar (Eds) (2008) Queering Straight Teachers. Peter Lang

The first is apparently “a passionate, challenging and academically stretching collection of essays that both re-appropriate the term queer and question the whole process of normalisation in education”. The second promises to shift the focus “from an analysis of the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] «Other» to a critical examination of what it might mean, in theory and in practice, to queer straight teachers, and the implications this has for challenging institutionalized heteronormativity in education”.

One reviewer writes that:

[T]he promise of queer theory for education rests in its potential to open up dialogue among persons from many divergent subjective positions, enabling them to explore the possibilities of coalitional politics and networks of solidarity that could transcend our codified patterns of interest-group politics.