Posts tagged ‘discourse analysis’

9 June 2011

Positive Discourse Analysis

Just finished writing a dictionary entry for “positive discourse analysis” and came across this book, which has a whole chapter on “Critical Discourse Analysis and Positive Discourse Analysis”:

Laura Alba-Juez (2009) Perspectives on Discourse Analysis: Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Including interesting online links to, e.g. critical discussion on whether positive discourse analysis is just a blase celebration of the status quo, and a recent paper from Jim Martin on the issues.

24 February 2011

Presuppositions and the GDR

A discourse analytical moment: Reading about a survey of perceptions of the GDR. Very critical study of how the “east Germans” are oh so nostalgic about the GDR and simply won’t accept the view of these west German scholars that the free, democratic FRG was the much superior state. The study led to a good deal of controversy in its time (2007).

One of the questions in the survey (Agree/Disagree as possible answers):

Sich in einer Gemeinschaft oder Gruppe unterzuordnen wie in der DDR, ist für mich grundsäzlich wichtiger, als meine eigene Persönlichkeit zu entwickeln.

To subordinate oneself to a community or group, as in the GDR, is more important to me than developing my own personality.

And here, once again, analysing presuppositions comes into its own. The explicit statement, to be supported or negated, is “X is more important to me than Y”.

It takes a lot more work to negate the presuppositions. Indeed, within the frame of the survey it is not possible to question the presuppositions.

Presupposition 1: In the GDR one subordinated oneself to the community/group.

Presupposition 2: This subordination hindered the development of one’s own personality.

Well, as long as we know what our “common knowledge” is.

1 December 2010

Attac and discourse analysis

Real live discourse analysis in action. Attac Berlin has a “language group”. Another language culture is possible.

Its aim is to analyse the language used by neoliberals, to explore the extent to which those metaphors, phrases, concepts, etc. pervade even the language of those contesting neoliberal practices, and to find ways of using language differently to open new possibilities.

The group meets on the first Monday of every month at 6.30pm in the attac-treff: Grünberger Straße  24, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain (U1 Warschauer Straße or U5 Frankfurter Tor).

17 June 2010

Winter Method School – content and discourse analysis

Winter Schule: Öffentlichkeitsforschung – Methoden für Inhalts- und Diskursanalyse
FU Berlin, Germany

The Method School’s aim is to highlight the state of the art in the field and discuss
which research questions can be tackled by which computer-aided content and discourse
analysis. Large-n content analyses have become popular, as content data is now
accessible in digital format. Some of the new approaches go beyond counting single terms
in documents, and seek to understand the structure and the context of the content
analysed. Several approaches have entered the stage at which it becomes possible to
combine quantitative and computer-aided qualitative coding. The Method School will,
therefore, offer an introduction into some of the most widely used software packages in
the field, but also introduce the basics of content and discourse analysis.

Besides introductions by experienced lecturers, the programme includes intensive group
work, practical sessions using traditional and new computer software and possibilities
for students to bring in their own research ideas and approaches. Some common social
activities in the beautiful city of Berlin will round off the programme.

The Winter Method School is particularly designed for early doctoral students (first two
years) with a research interest in the public sphere and no or limited prior knowledge
in the field of content and discourse analysis. In exceptional cases, graduate students
will be accepted if they can demonstrate a profound interest in these research methods
and have plans to use them in their PhD studies. All applicants should be fluent in

Places available: 20

Institution: Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Fachbereich Politik- und
Sozialwissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin
Beteiligte Personen: Prof. Dr. Thomas Risse, Freie Universität Berlin
Dr. Marianne van de Steeg, Freie Universität Berlin
Dr. Roel Popping, Groningen University
Dr. Veronika Koller, Lancaster University
Brit Helle Aarskog, Bergen University
Kontaktperson: Wiebke Wemheuer
Email: methodschool-jmce AT
Fax: +49 (0)30 – 838-55049
Adresse: Ihnestraße 22
14195 Berlin

17 April 2009

Police assault during G20

G20. London. 1 April. A police officer assaults Ian Tomlinson, pushing him from behind. He falls to the ground. Shortly after, he dies. An official police statement announces he died from the effects of a heart attack. Apparently, another police statement says that protesters hindered medics from helping him. Findings of a second postmortem released today show that Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage.

The Guardian’s video of the incident, including slow version and commentary:

This event offers a quick academic or student a perfect opportunity for some ‘investigative discourse analysis’ (let’s call it IDA). Meaning: gather the news coverage texts from the “critical discourse moment” (Chilton), i.e., the initial incident. How was it reported? how quickly did Ian Tomlinson’s death disappear from the media radar?

Optimally, to contextualize the textual analysis in wider relations and practices, conduct some interviews with key actors (journalists, editors, police spokespeople, political spokespeople working during the G20 meeting…). The incident is still recent; they will be able to give the analyst a clear and legitimate version of what they recall.

Off to press with the analysis.

27 March 2009

Discourse analyst on MTV

Yes, discourse analysis is fashionable enough for MTV. Simon Lindgren, Associate Professor of Sociology at Umeå University, Sweden, is starring in four short clips on Swedish MTV.

In the first one, I say a few words about reality television as a research subject. The second one is about the fact that one can actually make a career out of analyzing popular culture. The third one will appear before episodes of The Hills, and represents an ultra brief reflection on identity work and beauty culture. The fourth and final one will air before episodes of Life of Ryan, and gives an equally brief analysis of changing ideals of masculinity.

He is also presenting an interesting paper at the upcoming CAQR2009 (2nd International Conference on Computer-Aided Qualitative Research), which combines Laclau and Mouffe’s approach to discourse with bibliometric and network analytical tools — albeit focusing analysis on the print-textual level.

22 March 2009

“Dissident” – a resignification?

Something interesting happened in the news media last week.* After the fatal attacks on security forces in Northern Ireland on 9 and 10 Marc, the suspects were repeatedly referred to as “Irish Republican Army dissidents” (AP), “dissident republicans” (Guardian), “IRA dissidents” (The Star), “dissident republicans” (BBC), “dissident republican groups” (Telegraph), etc.

This fits with the standard dictionary definition of dissident (“disagreeing, esp, with an established government, system, etc.” according to the Oxford Concise Dictionary). But it does not fit with recent corpora, i.e., databases of the ways in which language is actually used. For example:


Note the distinct tendency for the majority of these “dissidents” to be positively valued (for a particular political position)? The dissidents are disagreeing with very particular types of governments and systems, and in a way which is pro-liberal, pro-democracy, pro-West and/or anti-Communist.

This is a random selection from the Collins WordbanksOnline English corpus (56 million words; contemporary written and spoken English). The British National Corpus (100 million words; British written and spoken English) returns similar results. (Oxford also now has a corpus, but they only have a video demo online.)

*It undoubtedly happened earlier, but I only became aware of it last week, reading the British coverage of the recent killings in Northern Ireland.

12 March 2009

Discourse Analysis: A Way of Seeing

Discourse Analysis: A Way of Seeing. That should be the title of my (next) book. Copyright and patented here. Although I’ve unabashedly lifted it from Harry F. Wolcott’s Ethnography: A Way of Seeing in which he argues that ethnography is not simply a way of “looking” but — the subtitle says it — a way of “seeing”.

A way of looking refers, in this sense, to a set of methodological techniques to look at the field, e.g., participant observation, interviewing, case studies, field work in general, etc. A way of seeing, on the other hand, is this way of looking plus “how data subsequently are organized, analyzed, or reported” (p. 46), i.e., an interpretive position integrating the methods with a purposeful way of looking and describing, integrating theory and — central to Wolcott — an orientation to culture.

Now this all sounds eminently plausible and chimes with the way I have begun to think about discourse analysis. Many people think of it as a set of methods; some think of it as an approach, a perspective, a way of seeing, but then conduct and write up studies in which it turns into a way of looking. And many researchers engage with discourse analysis as a way of seeing. This was, in a way, what Teun van Dijk was trying to achieve by renaming the field “discourse studies” rather than “discourse analysis”, since the term “analysis” does seem to encourage the reduction to method.


Review of the second edition of Ethnography: A Way of Seeing (2008) available here, including:

This casual yet informed synthesis, written in an engaging style, is what sets Wolcott’s book apart from the humdrum of texts that discuss methods formally, often in a staccato, bland, and abstracted tone, usually detached from application except to highlight the method by tacking on a case study. By contrast, Wolcott’s excursion is a wonderful raft ride through the flows, eddies, and rapids of anthropological experience that is always theoretically informed.

7 March 2009


Another term for the glossary: Ecolinguistics. And a two day symposium on current trands and developments in Ecolinguistics: The Ecology of Science is to be held on 11 and 12 June 2009 at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense).

Symposium on Ecolinguistics: The Ecology of Science

Call for Papers. Deadline: 18 Apr 2009

Ecolinguistics emerged in the 1990’s as a new paradigm of linguistic research which emphasises the ecological context in which societies are embedded. Einar Haugen’s “The Ecology of Language” and Michael Halliday’s 1990 work “New ways of Meaning: the challenge to applied linguistics” are often credited as a seminal works which provided the stimulus for linguists to consider the ecological context and consequences of language.

Among other things, the challenge that Haugen, Halliday and others put forward was to make linguistics relevant to the issues and concerns of the 21st century such as the the widespread destruction of ecosystems and the loss of languages. Since Haugen’s and Halliday’s initial comments, the field of Ecolinguistics has developed considerably, especially in Europe with a working group “Human  Ecology and Language” and symposia held in Austria and Germany. The discipline of Ecolinguistics is divided into two main branches: eco-critical discourse analysis and the ecology of languages. However, Ecolinguistics is still about to find its own home but it holds an interdisciplinary potential with academic subjects such as cultural geography, environmental history, eco-feminism, cultural studies, anthropology, eco-psychology and social ecology.

The aim of the symposium is to trace and merge current and new trends and developments in Ecolinguistics in order to explore avenues for future research.

Please submit tiles and an abstract for 20 minutes presentations to Jørgen Bang

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).