Getting the Hang of Discourse Theory

Getting the Hang of Discourse Theory

An Introduction to the Field

Studying political communication can be difficult, particularly since such studies cut across various different disciplines and many different schools of thought. One of the fundamental questions you’ll probably face is this: how do the things that people say and do affect society at large, and how does society in turn influence people? There are many theories on how these processes work, ranging from rational choice approaches to arguments influenced by Marxism. In this post, I will introduce you to one influential approach, called discourse theory.

What this theory is about, and what a discourse actually is, is not always easy to understand: sociologists and political thinkers have developed whole systems of philosophy around this term, often in conflict with one another, and researchers deploy a multitude of tools to analyse discourse. This post is meant to help you if you are new to the field and want to get your bearings. I will introduce several definitions of discourse, and will discuss how they relate to various theoretical concepts. In the process, you will meet the key founder of this approach, Michel Foucault, as well as important researchers who work in the field. You will also get a better grip on the sometimes “jargony” key terms, like genealogy or multimodality. And of course I will also share my own views on discourse theory with you. If you are simply looking for a quick overview of the topic, then this video introduction may be useful to you.

Definitions: Discourse is…

“the use of language” (Chilton 2004: 16)

“anything written or said or communicated using signs” (Fillingham 1993: 100)

“the flow of knowledge through time” (Jäger 2004: 129; translation FS)

“talk and texts as parts of social practice” (Potter 1996: 105)

“social cognitions, socially specific ways of knowing social practices”  (van Leeuwen 2008: 6)

What is discourse?

In everyday language, the word discourse usually means conversation or discussion. However, to scholars, discourse is far more than this. Discourse can encompass all forms of communication.

More importantly, it suggests that the truths that we live by are not simply “out there”, to quote the X-Files, but that we create those truths through our interactions. This is a controversial thing to assume, particularly if you are a scientific realist who is interested in exploring the natural world and finding facts through scientific tools. Discourse theory is therefore often associated with a postmodernism and its skepticism of the natural sciences.

Personally, I do not think that discourse theory is anti-scientific, and in fact think that there are many parallels to cognitive science, but that is a discussion for another post.

In the side-box, you can see how some of the leading experts explain discourse. Take a look at these different definitions. You may have already noticed a few elements in these quotes that are at odds with one another, and I’ll come back to some of the controversies in the field in a moment. Let’s first see what ideas discourse theorists generally share.

What different discourse theories have in common

In general, discourse theory is concerned with human expressions, often in the form of language. It highlights how such expressions are linked to human knowledge. A shared argument is that the things people say or write draw from a pool of generally accepted knowledge in a society, while at the same time feeding back into society to shape or reinforce such knowledge. What a society therefore holds to be true changes over time, depending on the ideas that members of a society exchange, and on the way in which such exchange happens. Another common concern is how specific people, or groups of people, are able to shape these “flows of knowledge”.

Certain persons may be in a particularly strong position to define what is true, while others may be excluded from the discussion. For instance, think about the different status that health advice might have when it comes from an experienced, male medical doctor compared to when it comes from your grandmother. Even though you may not know the doctor very well, your view of his social status, of his training, and of his gender all shape how you make sense of his advice. In other words, discourse theory is concerned with questions of power, and often with questions of institutional hierarchies. In discourse theory, such hierarchies lead to domination and resistance, for example when different people try to assert who should speak with authority on issues of health policy.

Foucault portrait

The father of discourse theory: Michel Foucault

Many of the commonalities I have listed above go back to the most famous discourse theorist: the French philosopher and sociologist Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Foucault, to put it simply, was convinced that the world we live in is structured by knowledge, or in other words: certain people and social groups create and formulate ideas about our world, which under certain conditions turn into unquestioned truths and start to seem normal.

The aim of Foucault’s research was to analyze such “regimes of truth” (Potter 2005: 86) and their history, for instance the development, demise and re-occurrence of statements on subjects like mental health (Foucault 1988/1965), crime and its punishment (1995/1977), or sexuality (1990/1978). Foucault originally attempted to map the rules that govern how statements emerge, as well as how knowledge is historically ordered (Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: 102-103). Foucault applied this approach, which he himself referred to as an archaeology of knowledge ( Foucault 2005/1989), to such fields as the history of medicine, of psychology, and of the social sciences (Foucault 2005/1970). He questioned how objective the truths these disciplines produce actually are. Foucault attempted to uncover mechanisms, such as classification strategies or theory building, which he believed created the objects of our social world (Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: 61). In other words, Foucault was examining the structures of knowledge. This is why his early work is often referred to as structuralist.

In his later work, Foucault became more post-structuralist (Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: 118-119 & 199): He started exploring the question of agency. He shifted his emphasis from the objects of social interaction to the subjects. Foucault’s works on disciplinary and confessional technologies (Foucault 1995/1977 & 1990/1978) is an example of this, and one of his famous cases is the panopticon: a prison in which the prisoners discipline themselves because they constantly feel watched. In these later genealogical works, Foucault explicitly questioned how discourse influences people’s mentality and prompts them to govern themselves in certain ways – a process he called governmentality. Throughout his work, Foucault showed how specific opinions came to be formed and preserved as what is today commonly called the hegemonic discourse, that is as the dominant viewpoint(s) throughout society, kept stable by political power dynamics (MacDonald 2003: 32).

Some controversies in discourse theory

Despite many common concerns, researchers of discourse have very different views on what exactly discourse is, how precisely it works, and what its impact might be. Also, their work may at times draw from other approaches that analyze textual sources, such as literary theory, theories of history, or different branches of linguistics, while at other times combining detailed language analyses with broad political concerns in ways that are at odds with these disciplines.  If you are planning to conduct discourse analyses, then you should be aware of the controversies and their implications. They could have a profound impact on how you set up your own research project.

Is discourse primarily language?

In a discourse analysis, you will have to decide how important you think the written and spoken word is. While most discourse analysts admit that discourse can play out in various forms of communication, their focus is overwhelmingly on language. This is particularly true for scholars who work in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of critical discourse analysis (or: CDA). CDA is a branch in the field that draws heavily from socio-linguistics, and which primarily produces what Greg Philo has called “text only” analyses (2007: 185). Important scholars in this discipline are Lilie Chouliaraki (Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999), Teun van Dijk (1993), Norman Fairclough (1995), Siegfried Jäger (2004), and Jürgen Link (2013). Another text-based approach is called political discourse analysis, and has been championed by Paul Chilton (2004). If you are interested in the linguistic aspects of discourse, then these approaches will likely be very useful.

Other scholars emphasize that text is not the only mode in which humans communicate (MacDonald 2003), and that sounds and visuals, or even tastes and smells should also fall under the term discourse. Such multimodal discourse approaches (Kress & van Leeuwen 2001) examine things like pictures, movies, games, food, physical artifacts, statues, buildings, and public spaces – always with an emphasis on what the contents of these media types and the ways people use them reveal about social truths. Very often, these approaches link to semiotics, which is the study of how different signs stand for specific objects. If you are interested in sociological work or broader communication practices, then such social semiotics might be a way forward.

fordism_400x300opt

What exactly does discourse “construct”?

Discourse theorists disagree on which parts of our world are real. In other words, they take different ontological stances. Extreme constructivists argue that all human knowledge and experience is socially constructed, and that there is no reality beyond discourse (Potter 1997). Critical realists, on the other hand, argue that there is a physical reality that “talks back” as we engage with it (Sperber 1996), but that this reality is represented through discourse (Kress & van Leeuwen 2001). Yet others are interested mainly in the socio-economic realities that discourse shapes: In line with Marxist critical theories, such scholars argue that there are different kinds of knowledge, and that we should distinguish between “beliefs, values, ideologies” (in other words types of false knowledge), and “knowledge properly so called” (what one might call true knowledge; Fairclough 1995: 44). In this view, discourse analysts have a moral obligation to emancipate people by revealing systemic ideological shackles that reflect class affiliations.

Who is the agent in discourse theory?

A closely related question in discourse theory is where power is located. Are certain identifiable groups manipulating discourse, for instance a capitalist class, a patriarchy, a specific religious group, or an ethnic majority? If so, are members of such groups acting consciously or subconsciously when they shape discourse in the favor of their group? Or is discourse its own agent, like post-Marxist theorists argue? In such a case, power is not something that certain people use to dominate others, but is a mesh of relations and hierarchies that has its own logic, and that no one is consciously steering (Howard 2000, Laclau and Mouffe 2001).

Where does discursive construction happen?

Another matter of controversy is what exactly discourse constructs and how. Does discourse shape only objects (the knowledge of the things people speak about), or does it shape subjects as well (the people who are interacting with the objects)? One stance is that our thoughts and actions are linguistically determined, and that we cannot think (and act) outside of the things we can express. In this line of thought, language has the power to programme how people behave.

Others look towards social practices and argue that discursive truths influence the habits of people through social pressures, for instance by establishing norms and values of what is normal or appropriate (Link 2013). Such assumptions then spread through the way people interact, and ultimately inform the logic of institutions (such as prisons, or enterprises, or systems of international relations). Finally, discourse can be seen to have a cognitive dimension (Chilton 2004, Sperber 1996). In such an interpretation, discourse is the expressions of human thought, and consequently has its roots in the interaction between our minds and our physical and social environments. The key to discourse is then the cognitive experience with the world through flawed sensory organs, and the way human beings share these experiences through discourse.

What to make of all this

As you can see, there are many different positions in discourse theory, and I can only urge you to explore this fascinating literature yourself to find your own answers to the various controversies. My own view is this:

For me, discourse refers to communication practices, which systematically construct our knowledge of reality. Discourse plays out in various modes, and across all media. Language is one part in this process, but not necessarily the most important one. Non-verbal and visual communication are crucial aspects of discourse. I personally think that discourse does not programme human thought, like strong versions of linguistic determinism have argued (the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers an excellent introduction to such arguments, and if you want to read a scathing critique, take a look at Pinker 1994: 46-48). Instead, I find it useful to understand discourse as a representation of human thought. It has a cognitive foundation, and is consequently open to (but also limited by) the kinds of psychological manipulations that cognitive scientists explore.

This may already give you an idea of my thoughts on what discourse is not. Social practices, for instance, may include communication elements, and may produce discursive statements, but they are not in and of themselves discourse. A specific action may be meant to communicate something, for instance a gesture or some other performance, and this means that the action produces discourse. However, a social interaction like a decision-making process is not itself discourse. Neither are political institutions or the physical objects in our surrounding. So how then do social processes, institutional mechanisms, and the objects we engage with relate to discourse?

In this regard, I find Foucault’s argument very useful that discourse affects social relations through the very real, often physical effects it has on our environment (Foucault 1995/1977). For instance: the way people think about a political issue like crime is a continuous negotiation process on what the “correct” view on this issue should be. This negotiation happens through discourse, and it can be manipulated and dominated by very real actors and interests groups. The general consensus that such negotiations produce then creates demands for a certain kind of legal system. It informs new laws, creates acceptance for certain kinds of punishment, and prompts governments to create places where such punishment takes place. All of this requires certain professions, such as judges, lawyers, police officers, and prison guards, and creates specific social relations.

I would therefore argue that discourse “crystallizes” into institutions, and prompts societies to create and shape the physical world they inhabit in specific ways rather than others. Discourse plays a crucial role in how human communities structure their polities and their economies. A single discourse analysis will not reveal how all of these processes work. But discourse theory highlights some of the mechanisms that are at work. In other words: discourse theory helps us think about the connection between communication and politics and the world we live in, and asks us to slowly and systematically put together the puzzle pieces that make up social relations.

If these theoretical discussions have sparked your interest, take a look at my post on how to set up a discourse analysis, at the ten work-steps that I recommend for analyzing written and spoken texts for political discourse, and at my advice on working with foreign scripts like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

References

Chilton, Paul (2004). Analyzing Political Discourse – Theory and Practice. London: Arnold.

Chouliaraki, Lilie & Fairclough, Norman (1999). Discourse in Late Modernity – Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Dreyfus, Hubert L. & Rabinow, Paul (1982). Michel Foucault – Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Fairclough, Norman (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Fillingham, Lydia A. (2005). Foucault for Beginners. Danbury CT: For Beginners.

Foucault, Michel (1988/1965). Madness and Civilization – A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel (1990/1978). History of Sexuality – An Introduction (Volume 1). New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel (1995/1977). Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel (1997). The Politics of Truth, LA: Semiotext(e).

Foucault, Michel (2005a/1970). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, 5th ed., London: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel (2005b/1989). Archaeology of Knowledge. 4th ed., London: Routledge.

Howarth, David (2000). Discourse, Buckingham & Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Jäger, Siegfried (2004). Kritische Diskursanalyse. Eine Einführung. (Discourse Analysis. An Introduction). 4th ed., Münster: UNRAST-Verlag.

Kress, Gunther & Van Leeuwen, Theo (2001). Multimodal Discourse – The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.

Laclau, Ernesto & Mouffe, Chantal (2001). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy – Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. 2nd ed., London & New York: Verso.

Link, Jürgen (2013). Normale Krisen? Normalismus und die Krise der Gegenwart (Normal Crises? Normalcy and the Crisis of our Present Age). Konstanz: Konstanz University Press.

MacDonald, Myra (2003). Exploring Media Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philo, Greg (2007). “Can Discourse Analysis Successfully Explain the Content of Media and Journalistic Practice”. Journalism Studies 8/2: 175-196.

Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct – How the Mind Creates Language. New York et al.: Harper Perennial.

Potter Jonathan (2005). Representing Reality – Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: SAGE.

Sperber, Dan (1996). Explaining Culture – A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford & Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Van Dijk, Teun A. (1993). “Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis”. Discourse & Society 4/2: 249-283.

Van Leeuwen, Theo (2005). Introducing Social Semiotics. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

Van Leeuwen, Theo (2008). Discourse and Practice – New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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75 Comments

  1. abderraouf bouferrouk

    Hello,
    I want to analyse the political speeches of the exEgyptian president Morssi. I dont know how to find the written form of the speeches. Also, I want to work on Fairclough’s appraoch ,so please give me a hand. Thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for the question. I’ve sent you an email with a few comments. Hope they help.

  2. Marvin Abreu

    I would like to conduct a discourse analysis on haggling of fish products and a political/ critical discourse analysis on peace talks. Can you help me on what framework to use? Thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Marvin, this very much depends on what you are trying to achieve, what level of work you are prepared to do, and what kind of different approaches you are considering. The various approaches to discourse analysis usually differ in several often very subtle ways, for instance in how strongly the different authors believe language to construct reality, and what they consider to be “text”. So I have no simple answer for you. The answer should really come from your own case, so from considerations regarding your materials and what you plan to do with them. If you need advice on that front, take a look at my post on how to conduct a text-based discourse analysis (http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/how-to-do-a-discourse-analysis/). Maybe that will help with finding a theoretical framework that provides you with the right methods.

  3. kamal

    hey ,would you input me by an example about a discourse policy in society(country) that has mulilangual and if it is possible lead me how i must shaps the outline of my own project? please,thanks a lot

    • Florian Schneider

      Hey Kamal,
      Many thanks for raising the issue of multilingual communication – something I left out in this blog post. I myself have not conducted such analyses, though I agree with you that they are important and very intriguing. You may find the work of Mark Sebba from Lancaster University interesting. He has written on bilingual and multilingual discourse, and his ideas on mixing languages and switching between “codes” might go well with the kind of research you have in mind. Take a look at his articles: http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/profiles/mark-sebba. In addition, I would recommend going through journals like the Journal of Multicultural Discourse (http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmmd20#.U1Y9wfmSxLU) to see who has written on similar topics. You might be able to draw additional inspiration from there.
      Good luck with the project!
      Best – F

      • marlene

        Hi ! I am conducting a research on how do Chinese cartoons depict/ed Japan( during the recent crisis between the two nations 2005/20013) and I was looking for a valid way to analyze the cartoons’ language. My aim is to understand how is Chinese government trying to shape popular opinion on Japan (in the extend we analyze the goverment’s media outlet as could be People’s Daily or Xinhua ) and whether in different media (state-run, state-affiliated ,private blogs, weibo) it is possible to find a different “depiction” of Japan. In other words if besides cartoon’s which depict Japan as the enemy it is possible to find other cartoons wich encourages a calm, and rational reaction by Chinese)
        . I was thinking a nationalism theory as theoretichal framework but at the same time I was curious to understand if discourse theory could be applied to visual arts (in this case manhua) and if It could be a valid framework

        • Florian Schneider

          What a fascinating project. You’re right to wonder whether discourse analysis would work here, particular since so much of the field focuses on written language, but personally I think the theoretical considerations can apply to any form of communication. Discourse, after all, plays out in many different “modes”. If you want to read more about this, I can recommend “Multimodal Discourse Analysis” by Kress and van Leeuwen. You might also find my blog posts on visual communication analysis useful, which combine discourse analysis with semiotics. Here’s the more theoretical post: , and this is a methodological take on the subject . Hope this helps!

  4. Sonja

    Hello, I just stumbled across this website through Google since I’m currently conducting a discourse analysis myself, and just wanted to say thank you for creating it and sharing your knowledge! Your explanations of discourse theory and its practical application are excellent, comprehensible and really helpful in a context in which many seem to prefer mere ‘term dropping’.

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks Sonja, I appreciate the kind words. Good luck with your discourse analysis!

  5. Kwabena Owusu-Ampratwum

    I am very grateful for the information you have provided, it has been immensely helpful to my understanding of how to conduct a discourse analysis for my dissertation. Thank you so much

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope all goes well with your dissertation!

  6. Ayesha

    Hi Florian,
    I am preparing a paper to critically evaluate contributions of DA to develop an understanding of social and political world … what do you advise.. how should I go about it..

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Ayesha, I’m not sure I have understood your question correctly: are you asking where to look for materials so you can write a literature review on DA? If so, I would probably go through the back-issues of leading DA journals like Discourse & Society and Discourse & Communication, and I would check the works that get references there most often. Is this what you had in mind? If you are more interested in a general introduction to DA and its social and political implications, I would recommend the book by Howarth that is listed above. It’s really quite excellent. Hope this helps. Best – F

  7. krisstene

    hi, am doing a discourse analysis of poems. i think am stucked at conceptual and theoretical frame work. please i need the theories and concept.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Krisstene,
      I am not sure I understand your question, or maybe the problem is just very broad: what do you have in mind when you say you need the theories and concepts of discourse analysis? I would probably say: take a look at the literature that I’ve recommended above, as well as in this post: http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/how-to-do-a-discourse-analysis/. That should help get a handle on what the different concepts mean and what you might be able to do with them. You might also find the many comments in the discussion section of that post useful. If there’s anything specific that I can then still help with, send me an email with your question and I’ll do my best to answer it.
      Best
      FS

  8. Velina

    Hello,I am currently writing my Master thesis at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. As I have jyst started doing it and I am not experienced with discourse analysis, I was advised to find examples of research which uses discourse analysis and ”copy” its methodology, as going into theoretical debates will not be as useful for my project. I am going to compare website content in a French and an Iranian website related to the debate about fredom of speech and its limits which was triggered anew after the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo. Could you recommend some researches which use discourse analysis and might be helpful? Thank you!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Velina,
      Have you had a chance to look at my methods suggestions on the subject? You might be able to simply follow some of these worksteps for your project, particularly if your supervisor is not too interested in theoretical discussions: http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/how-to-do-a-discourse-analysis/. If this is not what you are looking for, then I can recommend taking a look at the work of people like Paul Chilton, Norman Fairclough, or Teun van Dijk. They have discussed their methods in quite some detail, though this may already go beyond what you are hoping to use here. As for website analyses, you might want to go “multi-modal”, meaning that you’d examine not just the text but also the visual, digital components. Theo van Leeuwen’s work on semiotics and iconography might be helpful there, and I would also take a look at John Knox’s 2009 research article “punctuating the homepage” (http://dcm.sagepub.com/content/3/2/145.abstract) and Luc Pauwels’ 2005 article “Websites as visual and multimodal cultural expressions” (http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/27/4/604.refs).

  9. Ashleigh

    Dear Florian
    Thank you so much for this introduction. It has been very useful to me. I have a paper due that is simply asking “how a discourse comes about in a general sense”. I have found a lot on discourse theory and Foucault but it is all very conceptual and I just need something simpler. Do you have any suggestions of where I should be looking? or articles that may help answer this question.

    Your help is much appreciated.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Ashleigh,
      You’re right that everything I’ve referenced above is already fairly detailed, and often not very accessible. Have you taken a look at the any of the introductory texts on the subject? There’s quite a few that are interesting, not to mention fun. There’s the very short introduction to Foucault by Oxford University Press (http://amzn.to/1ynAJUY), and I also like the “For Beginners” series, in which either the “Foucault” or the “Post-structuralism” books might be helpful (http://amzn.to/1HiHSI3 and http://amzn.to/1DW1Vwq). If any aspect of this piques your interest, you can always go and check out the originals, or the slightly denser academic discussions referenced above.

  10. asmaa

    hello sir,
    i am in dire need foryour advice because i should snlysize using CDA ON PASERNAK`S DR. Zhivago…focusing on power—i do not how to start—-can you help me with steps of analysis—and i conslut you—God bless you
    kind regards-

    • Florian Schneider

      Wow, that is a big assignment. What I would do is read the novel carefully and mark all parts that deal with “power”. I would then compile the main statements in those sections, and I would examine how they work linguistically (i.e. what the choice of words and the grammar might tell me about what the author says or implies regarding power and any relevant related concepts). If you haven’t done so already, take a look at my blog post on how to do a discourse analysis: http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/how-to-do-a-discourse-analysis/. I imagine steps 4, 6 and 8 will be particularly useful for a case like this.

  11. James

    Dear Florian,

    I am conducting a CDA on the UN report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2013)

    My research question is basically:

    Does the focus of the international community (UN) on nuclear proliferation limit the ability to deal with the humanitarian crisis in North Korea?

    Basic overview: North Korea as irrational, unobservable. Regime survival. Nuclear as threat mechanism etc. US discourse in line with security paradigm. Realism etc.
    UN discourse in line with liberalism and neo-liberalism of international organisations.

    Security council and UN general assembly has historically mainly focused on the nuclear issue and therefore puts the humanitarian crisis behind in priority.

    I’m arguing that this recent report somewhat shows a move away from this discourse.

    What is the way to go about providing a substantial methodology and analysis of one document? I don’t have much time to complete this and that is why I am focusing on this release of the report as a main discursive event.

    Any tips? Ideas? Methods?

    Your reply will be very much appreciated,
    James

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear James,
      A fascinating topic. I realize you don’t want to expand the topic too much, but if you are trying to trace the discourse (e.g. see if the UN is “moving away” from an earlier discourse), then I would recommend comparing the document you are using now with an earlier document. In each case, you may not have to go into formal linguistics, but you would have to be systematic about your approach. The various authors working on Critical Discourse Analysis might be useful here (Ruth Wodak has edited two very nice introductory books that include different approaches and options), but you might also find Paul Chilton’s “Political Discourse Analysis” interesting in this context. The trick is to not just provide statements from the texts and summarize what they say (which isn’t really a discourse analysis), but to explain how the people or institutions behind a text used communication strategically to frame an issue in specific ways and legitimize their political role in the process. Have you looked at my other post on “How to do a discourse analysis” (http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/how-to-do-a-discourse-analysis/)? I imagine that steps 4 through 6, and parts of step 8 might be helpful.
      Good luck with the project!
      Best
      Florian

  12. God bless you dear Florian you have equipped me with the plenty of knowledge on discourse analysis as it has added a bit of more knowledge beyond what I knew before. I was handling the course in my previous academic semester. Very interesting in day to day’s communication

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for the kind words, Epimacus. I’m glad to hear that you found this useful.

  13. Hassan

    Thank you very much for your great website. Could you please just let me know which method to use in order to analysing the documentary films for my PhD thesis?

    Best regards,
    Hassan

  14. ALison

    In writing my thesis work, I need to do a topic on discourse theories. I was wondering if ‘discourse theories’ is different from ‘discourse analysis’. Are there any specific theories of discourse? Thanks.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Alison,
      You are right that ‘discourse analysis’ and ‘discourse theory’ are not exactly the same thing, though they are related. Discourse analysis is the practical side of things: examining communication practices in order to find out how people see the world, and how power dynamics and institutions in society affect those worldviews (or are, in turn, affected by them). Theories of discourse are about the general questions that inform discourse analyses: what is reality? what can we know about reality? what does communication have to do with understanding reality? how do social relations and power shape that understanding? and so on. So if your task is to write about discourse theories, then you should probably discuss the philosophical arguments that underpin different approaches to discourse. Michel Foucault should probably appear in that discussion, but so should other authors, like the post-Marxists (Laclau & Mouffe, for instance). In general, I would recommend the book ‘Discourse‘ by David Howarth as a starting point, and I would then systematically look at some of the original (or translated) texts by the authors that he discusses.
      Good luck with the thesis!
      Best
      Florian

  15. please i need help. im doing a research paper that depends on analyizing maragret thatcher speech and there are alot of things on discourse. hopefully you will be able to help me

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Fatima,
      That’s a broad question – have you looked at my post yet on ‘how to do a discourse analysis‘? I’d imagine that work steps 5 and 6 in particular, as well as several of the concepts in work step 8, will provide useful angles on the topic. Political speeches are usually exciting materials for discourse analysis, since they are well planned and carefully put together for the best rhetorical effect. Looking at the rhetorical tools that Thatcher used should therefore be worth your while.
      Take a look and see if the practical steps help you. Good luck with the project!
      Best
      Florian

  16. also great work …one of the best

  17. maureen

    Hello,

    -do you have any guide/advice on how to do a Critical Discourse Analysis?
    – Can you provide any examples of discourse analysis outside of a political context , so perhaps in a business context?
    – Any advice on how to set up a research question/project?

    Many thanks

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Maureen,

      Have you taken a look yet at my posts on How to Do a Discourse Analysis and Setting up a Discourse Analysis? They are not specifically about ‘critical’ discourse analysis, but they might help you with regards to your first and third question. You might also want to check the two edited volumes by Ruth Wodak that I tend to recommend on CDA: Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences and Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis – loads of inspiration in those pages. As for your second question, this is a bit harder to answer, since I focus primarily on politics, but you may be able to find something from a different field in one of the major journals (e.g. Discourse & Society or Discourse & Communication). Also, there are two chapter in Norman Fairclough’s foundational book Critical Discourse Analysis that deal with less political issues: the discourse of ‘enterprise’ and the marketing discourses of universities (chs 5 and 6, in the original first edition – the new edition is somewhat different).
      I hope this is of help!
      All the best
      Florian

  18. BASHIRAT ABDULWAHAB

    Hello,
    I am looking into the Editorial Comments of three Nigerian Newspapers on the National Conference and I am so confused about the approach to use. Also, its been difficult laying hands on enough literature, and my supervisor isn’t ready to clarify things for me, he is very busy. Please I need help. Thank you.

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi,
      It’s rough when the supervisor is busy – sorry to hear you’ve been having trouble. There’s a number of things you could do with source materials like this, provided you have an interesting question that will allow you to narrow down the subject matter and home in on specific elements of your sources. Otherwise you might find yourself overwhelmed with materials quickly. Personally, I would pick a theme that you find interesting across your materials, and I would then check how these editorial compare, in terms of how they frame that theme. I’ve provided practical work steps that you might find useful in this post: How to Do a Discourse Analysis. If you haven’t already seen it, look at the structural issues you could look at, as well as the rhetorical and linguistic features. These might be dimensions worth exploring.
      I hope this helps!

      • BASHIRAT ABDULWAHAB

        Thank you so much for these suggestions, really helpful -:).

  19. Tanja

    Hello,

    First, thank you so much for posting this article and sharing your knowledge. It is very helpful. However, I still need to ask you for a piece of advice. I am writing a paper on how relationship between characters in Beloved is determined by the beliefs, prejudices of those characters. E.g. one of them feels guilty for killing her daughter and feels that she has to compensate to her now resurrected daughter. It prompts her to overindulge that resurrected daughter to the extent that she completely neglects herself in order to please her. The resurrected daughter uses the discourse according to which her death has to be compensated for and is a taker in the relationship. As a result, the mother is becoming thinner and thinner, while the resurrected daughter is becoming fatter and fatter. There is also the second daughter in the story, who follows the discourse according to which relationship between those two should not be one-sided and that her mother will die if it goes on like this. By using this logic, she decides to call people from the community to help her.
    What discourse theory can I use here and what book covers it. If you have any other thoughts/advice on this, I will be happy to hear them.
    Thank you so much

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Tanya,
      I am afraid I’ve not read the book, or watched the movie, so I can’t comment on the plot or the characters. I would, however, point out that discourse analysis is usually interested in how communication practices interact with broader social concerns. What you outline sounds more like a narrative analysis, which may be entirely sufficient for what you are trying to do, but if you want to provide a discourse analysis you should also ask yourself: how do the various characters develop certain concepts (‘family’, ‘race’, ‘violence’, ‘slavery’, or whatever else seems particularly appropriate for this case)? How does the work itself use language to frame these concepts and relay different positions on the matter? And how do these positions connect to broader debates on these issues? If you are interested in learning more, I can recommend two books that provide good overviews of the different approaches and methods in discourse analysis: Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences and Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. If you are looking at the movie, then you might also want to take a look at how iconography and visual discourse contribute to the story, though that is yet another research approach (you’ll find a short intro to that sort of work in my post on An Introduction to Visual Communication Analysis). Hope this helps. Good luck with the analysis!

  20. Ah How

    Can i know how to answer those question like : Discourse analysis II is concerned with the material practices of institutions. This includes issues of power, regime of truth, institution and technologies. By using this discourse analysis II, anticipate how a PANOPTICON works as metaphor for social control ?

    • Ah How

      First of all, thank for your lesson … i try to understand what discourse is meaning about … :)

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi! I’m glad you’ve found this useful. As I’ve pointed out out to other forum contributors, I don’t feel comfortable providing answers to exam or course questions – these are obviously tests that you each need to solve yourselves. That said, it seems the question you mention connects to what Foucault writes about in ‘Discipline & Punish‘. You might want to take a closer look at Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon, which Foucault also discusses, and then ask yourself: what aspects of our contemporary societies might be a bit like that idea (and why)? I suspect that’s what the question is aimed at. Hope this helps!

  21. jazzy

    thanks it helpd a lot, can u take habermas, pls and ellaborate more on his theory of discourse?thnks.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Jazzy,
      I would love to at some point write something on Habermas and communication, but I suspect that would turn out to be a rather lengthy blog post – not something I can manage at the moment, with the semester getting into full swing. Overall, this is not an easy subject, considering how closely Habermas’ different fields of interests connect and overlap (his theory of meanings, of communication, of politics and society…). Just a quick note that, in my understanding, Habermas’ work on ‘discourse morality’ and ‘discourse ethics’ is very much geared towards questions of how to make ‘rational discourse’ possible between members of a society, and to figure out how to create an acceptable consensus on what the ‘common good’ is, how to achieve happiness, etc. Particularly this focus on ‘rationality’ is quite different from what critical discourse analysts usually assume, which is that there are no ideal communicative situations governed (primarily) by reason. Instead, discourse analysis would probably now ask how, why, and when actors try to enforce such ideas of rationality, and how these practices are tied to the fundamental concepts of modernity. But here, too, I’d hesitate to generalize too much, since attitudes towards ‘rational communication’ differ depending on which discourse analysts and theorists you look at. Some are more sympathetic to rational explanations, others are not (Foucault would likely have been in the latter group). At any rate, if you don’t have the time and energy to delve into Habermas’ original works (and I wouldn’t blame you – they are quite forbidding), then I can recommend Finlay’s ‘Very Short Introduction‘ to Habermas (Oxford Uni Press, 2005). It is an excellent starting point.

  22. Vincent

    Hi Florian,
    Thanks a lot for your series of articles on discourse analysis. They are extremely helpful for a researcher new to this field. I am thinking about a research project about NGOs’ discourse (their advertising materials their news releases, social website updates, handouts, etc) that communicate development work to individuals in developed countries. The focus is to examine how charity and justice/rights as opposing concepts underpin their discourse. However, I am not sure which specific approach I should use. Do you have any advice for me? Any suggestions is appreciated!

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Vincent,
      This sounds like a great topic. I think your approach will depend a bit on 1) what kind of project this is (MA, PhD?) and what scope you can consequently cover, 2) whether you are interested primarily in the discourses, primarily in the social practices, or in a combination of both. I would check what materials are most likely to answer your question, and I would then adapt my ‘toolbox’ accordingly, for instance focusing on linguistic text analysis where you are looking at news releases but integrating visual analysis where you are examining advertising materials etc. Again, you’ll have to decide how much material is ‘too much’. If you are able to also explore the production of these materials, that would of course be highly interesting, but it would require methods like qualitative interviews or participant observations. In large projects (like PhDs), it can be feasible to do both the discursive and the social side of a topic. For a smaller project, I’d probably stick to the discourse, in which case any (or all) of the work-steps above should be useful. By the way, have you taken a look at Nandita Dogra’s work on NGOs and aid? Might be useful for your project.
      All the best
      Florian

  23. Claudia

    Hello,
    your website was very helpful as a basic source of information on discourse theories. I would like to ask you a question if you could give me some ideas on my research project. Currently, I am working on my thesis and what I try is to analyse political speeches, namely Obama’s final State of the Union Address as well as his first speech, using Aristotel’s three means of persuasion ( Ethos, pathos and logos), but I got lost right now and I am wondering if you could suggest some other methodology/ theory to use for this kind of analysis( maybe Van Dijk theory of discourse) or some different directions of this project…this would be my “practical” part of the paper, and the first chapter I want to introduce a brief history on discourse/ different approaches ( van Dijk, Chilton, Wodak) and some theory on rhetorics( since it is important for the analysis).
    Thank you!
    Claudia

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Claudia,
      Sorry for keeping you waiting with a reply. It’s the height of the grading period here, so I’ve been struggling to keep up with everything that’s on my desk.
      Since you will be discussing Wodak and Chilton in your first chapter, why not use their methods to then also analyse the speech? Wodak’s edited volumes in particular are quite useful in this regard. You could also use some of the discourse analysis work-steps I’ve discussed on this website, if you haven’t done so already. I’d imagine work-steps four through eight might be useful.
      Hope this helps!
      Best
      Florian

  24. Mahalakshmi

    Dear Sir, I am an Indian student studying Chinese politics in Shanghai. Your post about discourse theory has been useful as a start. While discussing some topics for my Master’s thesis , my professor suggested I look at using CDA . Having no background in this before , I started by reading your post on what is a discourse and this has helped initiate some understanding. I have two topics that I would like to work on for my master’s project ( I have just the 4th semester consisting of 3-4 months for this project completion)
    1) India in the Chinese media-this project would study the perceptions created about India in the Chinese state media and other social media. The questions that can be asked are:
     who creates the story
     Is the perception created by the state media and other social media similar or different
     What types of discourses /key terms emerge regarding the portrayal of India in the Chinese media
     This study would analyze the intricate web of news media which is connected to the state and how the state and its official position plays a key role in shaping the discourse

    2) Political use of culture and traditions in China – this project would look at the resurgence of culture and tradition as increasingly being used in state media and pushed for by the state along with the current trend of resurgence of Marxism under Xi Jinping. The news media seems a good start point wherein everyday you have this projection of China as the emerging cultural and economic power and how the Party is trying to appropriate use of these traditions and Chineseness to back up its legitimacy.
    Emerging from these 2 topics are few questions:
     I would like your opinion about these articles and do you think a discourse analysis can fit into these areas as a particular methodological tool? Would it be better to use DA or CDA
     We have not been formally taught how to conduct discourse analysis-for a first timer to use it as a component of thesis is doable?
    Would really appreciate your suggestions on these areas. Any suggestions on how to move from here would really help.

    Thanks,
    Mahalakshmi

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Mahalakshmi,
      Sorry for keeping you waiting with a reply. Both of your topics sound like great thesis subjects, though you’ll have to narrow them down some more. At the moment, the first options seems a bit more developed. If you focus on one of these questions, and maybe refine it a bit more, then you’re already halfway there. You’d still need do pick media sources (and a time-frame) that you can use, for instance one Party paper and one commercial paper, but discourse analysis would definitely be a good methodological framework to study such representations. The second topic is also exciting, but in that case you’ll have to explore the literature on (Chinese) nationalism a bit more. Works on collective remembering should be particularly useful. Then you’d have to pick either a source or a case study, to narrow your focus down more, and come up with a research question that you can explore by analyzing your sources empirically. I’d advise you to talk to your supervisor, so that you can decide together what is still feasible in the coming three to four months. You definitely don’t want to set up a project that can’t be finished on time. Best to keep your eye on the ball and pick something that promises to be feasible while still getting you interesting results. That’s somewhat vague advice, but I hope it’ll still help.
      Best – Florian

  25. Mahalakshmi

    Thankyou for your timely reply. I do have further issues I would like to dscuss with you. I will address them shortly via e-mail.

  26. Aunya

    Your website and youtube channel are really helpful for me as a new student of Discourse Studies. Thank you so much for posting such excellent articles and videos!

    • Florian Schneider

      You’re welcome, Aunya. Glad to hear you find these materials helpful.

  27. hi brother, if you can help me by explaining the relevance discourse theories in language learning
    am english student and am lost
    thx

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi there. Language learning is a bit outside of my field of expertise, but if I understand the discussions in that area right, then discourse analysis gets used to study how teachers and learners use language as they interact in a cooperative learning experience. This can include how young students use language in their learning activities (and the implications this might have as teachers react and adjust their teaching role; see the link above). It can also include cases of foreign language learning, where students have to engage in linguistic activities that are part of a foreign ‘discourse community’, so a group that uses established linguistic conventions to make themselves understood. How does such community work happen, how does it work, and can foreign learners join this community to (for example) change language norms through their own spoken and written discursive practices? In either case, the goal is usually to try and empower learners by helping them acquire the discursive tools needed to achieve effective and enjoyable learning outcomes. You may have to explore the literature on this a bit more for your own project, since I am not an expert, but I hope the two articles I linked to here will help.

  28. Woraya Som-Indra

    Dear Professor,
    Thanks to provide such a very useful and thoughtful websites and links here. I am very new in CDA and still struggle. I am so happy to find you and the web, seemed like you really understand the struggling of people who are trying to understand CDA. PS. you look so cool 😉
    Regards,
    Woraya

    • Florian Schneider

      Thanks for the kind words, Woraya. No one should have to struggle with this, so I’m glad to hear the blog post made things a little clearer. CDA should, after all, also be exciting and fun. :)
      Best,
      Florian

  29. nafisa

    Hi Sir,
    Your blog just put confusion to rest. It was wonderful reading. I am willing to explore on topic “e-Islamic media with focus on its emerging verticals in context of social & media enterprise”. For this, I am picking/studying youtue videos and online website (islam oriented)
    I was wondering if Discourse Analysis (i mean video transciption is must) as I am more interested in tracing growth, challenges, survival of e-Islamic media and how these all paved way for distinct Islamic media verticals (food, travel, fashion).
    Further, I am curious how these thriving segemetations are adding to social & media enterprise (to carve space for itself in mediascape ).
    Please guide me with methodology/earlier work or study on topic and your valuable (in way related to my topic) as I am still shaping my research proposal.
    Looking forward for your suggestions.
    Regards,
    Nafisa

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Nafisa,
      This is an exciting topic. I also saw your email, but let me briefly comment here, and if you have other questions you can send me another mail. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘verticals’, but I think analyzing youtube videos to see how various users deploy the medium in their religious practices would be a very good research topic. I think there’s two important questions you should clarify for youself, in order to narrow your project down a bit. The first is: are you more interested in the platform and its role in spreading ideas (which might entail a study of youtube functionalities and its role in wider digital political economies), or are you more interested in what users do on that platform (so: the content of certain videos or feeds)? And second (provided you are interested in the content): are you more interested in what is said (discourse), in what is shown (visual analysis / semiotics), or in both (which would require a combination of methods)? In any case, you’d have to explain why you are choosing the sources you are analyzing, and you should then probably design a research question that you can answer by empirically studying your materials. I have tips on this website on how to work with language, as well as on how to analyze moving images e.g. in videos like those you would find on youtube. You could use those tips to set up your analytical framework, and I would recommend then also doing a thorough literature review of the methods you find most useful (e.g. Van Dijk, Fairclough, Wodak etc. for discourse analysis, or Van Leeuwen, Eco, and others for semiotics).
      As for the topic of e-Islam, I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the topic to help. That said, you could check the work of my colleague Martin Slama at the Austrian Academy of Science. He doesn’t work specifically on questions related to the Qur’an (as far as I am aware), but he’s worked on Islamic uses of social media in Indonesia. Maybe some of that work is interesting for you?
      I hope this helps. Good luck with the project!
      Regards,
      Florian

  30. nafisa

    It is great help, Sir :) . Yes, I do have more queries, will ask in detail via mail.
    thank you so much. Stay blessed:)

  31. Raphael

    Hello,

    I was casually scrolling the internet for discourse-related information and stumbled upon your website.

    Not sure if you still check these messages, but I just want to say I really enjoyed reading this blog. I’m actually a Masters student trying to research discourse theory for my project and was hoping a website like this would pop up to magically help me out. This post helped clarify some things I was getting confused with!

    At this stage, I’m looking at Black Lives Matter and how their messages–in social media–can be seen as discourse that shapes views on racism and social injustice. I’m also looking at whether these messages have been effective in creating social or political change.

    Regarding this topic, would you be able to recommend texts that describes a connection/relationship between discourse and activism?

    Also, any tips or advice on this research project is welcome!

    Thank you,

    Raphael.

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Raphael,
      Sorry for only seeing your post now. Your topic sounds very interesting. I’m not aware of studies that explicitly analyze activist discourse, though you might be able to find something if you leaf through the back issues of journals like Discourse & Society or Discourse & Communication. There is of course a long list of literature on discourse and race, but usually with a focus on racism in everyday language rather than on the discourse of those who mean to create awareness for such language practices. As for activism, there is a very good book about the ‘Ambiguities of Activism‘ (by Ingrid Hoofd) that discusses a number of theoretical problems involved in progressive activist movements. This, to some extent, includes the (neo)liberal discourses that activists frequently deploy to counter neoliberalism (and the implications that this brings with it), so that might be of interest to your study. It is not, however, an explicit discourse analysis. I would only check out the volume if your university has it, or if your able to easily order it for the library – the price tag is otherwise rather prohibitive, as is often the case with such academic publications.
      At any rate, maybe that connection to Hoofd’s work is helpful. I wish you all the best for your study, and thanks for the kind words: I’m very happy to hear you found the post helpful.
      All the best,
      Florian

  32. Kwabena Adu

    I want start my research in discourse. Is it possible to get a list of theories for discourse analysis in order to find my footing?

    • Florian Schneider

      I am not aware of a specific list, but if you are looking for a book that discusses discourse theory, I can recommend David Howarth’s book ‘Discourse‘. It helped me get my bearings when I started working in the field.

  33. walter

    what are the role of the discourse theory in the contemporary politics

    • Florian Schneider

      I’m afraid that’s such a broad question, I wouldn’t be able to answer it for you here. You might find the introductory volumes edited by Ruth Wodak interesting as an overview. I also like Paul Chilton’s work on political discourse. Of course, if you’re interested in processes that are happening right now (e.g. in the US), then you’d likely have to stage your own study to find the answer, or wait until scholars have taken a closer look at the discourses of current political actors like Donald Trump.

  34. Matt

    Hi Florian, just wanted to say thank you for making these summaries available online – I’m doing my undergraduate thesis on how narratives surrounding nuclear energy are constructed by the press in Germany (especially post-Fukushima), and have found these pages extremely useful. No other website or article I’ve found has laid out this method with so much clarity and depth, so thanks a lot for that.

    I’ve been listening to a lot of Jordan B Peterson’s videos recently, and find his criticism of post-modernism, and Foucault + Derrida in particular, very interesting. I’m therefore thinking of focusing my thesis towards the critical realist approach you lay out here, emphasising that the world is not completely socially constructed (as some post-structuralists have argued), but that discourse does play a key role in shaping our understanding of it. Do you think it is possible to mostly reject the post-modernist philosophy of Foucault et al. and still perform a successful discourse analysis?

    Again, thanks a lot for this brilliant content.

    Best,
    Matt

    • Florian Schneider

      Hi Matt,
      Thanks for the kind words. I’m very glad you find these tools useful. I think the general methods and work steps that discourse analysis provides are to some extent agnostic about theoretical underpinnings. Some discourse analyses resemble the kind of hermeneutics that arts and humanities scholarship embraces, asking how we can understand people’s different views of the world at different times and in different places (quite similar to German traditions of intellectual history); some discourse analyses are very analytical and positivist, treating language as a system of representation that works according to specific psychological and social rules (a view that can be quite structuralist); yet other discourse analyses are ‘critical’ in that they mean to show how communication and knowledge are matters of power (this is where questions of oppression and resistance are most commonly discussed). You yourself are of course free to position yourself in any one such tradition, or between them, depending on what your questions and concerns are, and what your own philosophical point of view is.
      I can see how Peterson’s arguments against critical scholarship fit in, in this regard. Indeed, the debates about what should count as ‘truth’ are extremely fascinating, and it’s always good to ask how far radical constructivist thought can take us, particularly now that so many people have abandoned the idea that facts might matter.
      That said, I do worry that Peterson is creating a bit of a straw man argument against a kind of postmodernism that doesn’t actually exist, and that he is doing some violence to the arguments of people like Foucault (whatever one might think of those arguments). I have only watched one of his videos, so I may be doing him an injustice, but it seems he thinks that postmodern thought is simply an ‘anything goes’ approach to truth, bolstered with a bit of Marxist structuralism so that the value judgements of postmodern authors don’t end up floating away into nothingness. He also seems to think that postmodern thought has been used to justify censorship, e.g. during recent reported incidents at US university campuses, and that he thinks the problem is a misguided ideas of ‘political correctness’ that he associates with the identity politics of postmodernists. I have my problems with those arguments. They overlook the complexity of what people like Foucault or Derrida were doing, and the amount of innovation that has taken place since they were active. Today’s critical, post-structuralist discourse theories are quite sophisticated, and they have long overcome some of the problems that they were attacked for in the ’80s or ’90s, like problematic assumptions about oppressors vs underdogs, or about the flexibility of individual identity. Most of my contemporary colleagues in CDA have moved on from such earlier discussions and do quite excellent work on power and communication (if you are interested, I can recommend the edited volumes by Ruth Wodak, or the work of my colleague Johann Unger at Lancaster Uni). There’s also been quite a lot of attacks on critical scholarship lately, especially now that the right has embraced the idea that there is no truth, but those critiques tend to make a number of claims about perceived ‘speech policing’ that may not be quite accurate. Peterson seems to be one of those critics. I actually don’t know any post-structuralist colleagues who promote or endorse the kind of things that radical free-speech advocates attack them for (there’s a really good article about the invention of ‘political correctness’ in the Guardian that I can recommend – it’s a bit long, but worth the read: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/30/political-correctness-how-the-right-invented-phantom-enemy-donald-trump). There are of course also radical post-modernists, but their arguments tend to be intentionally provocative to show us how claims to truth are extremely political (Jonathan Potter has defended a radical constructivist approach to reality, and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, I think there is much more complexity in that argument than critics at times admit).
      As I said, I may be doing Peterson an injustice for trying to rescue modernism from its detractors, which is a valid project that he shares with people like Habermas. I myself prefer critical modernists and critical realists like Raymond Geuss on issues such as these (I like his collection of essays ‘Politics and the Imagination’, just FYI) – they are more generous to postmodern thought and the many important contributions it has made to philosophy, art, and science. As for discourse analysis, the tools I’ve described here can serve any of these different epistemic positions, so I think if you want to position yourself within a more structuralist tradition, you shouldn’t have any problems doing so.
      Let me know how your project goes. It’s a fantastic topic, which I also keep citing to students to demonstrate how a ‘discursive event’ can shift discourses and can fundamentally alter political institutions and policies, so you should have a very strong case there indeed.
      All the best,
      Florian

      • Matt

        Hi Florian,

        Thanks a lot for this, it cleared a lot of things up re. different types of thought; it’s very useful to know about the history of the intellectual tradition too. I get what you mean about Peterson’s critiques; I get the impression he has a certain (radical) vision of postmodernism in mind, which he criticises without reference to other interpretations of the philosophy. I think he’s a highly cynical person in general too, which may also contribute to his somewhat parochial criticism.

        Thanks for the literature suggestions too and for the advice on my project – I feel I have a much better grasp on the theory now. Again thanks a lot for all this explanation.

        Best,
        Matt

        • Florian Schneider

          You’re more than welcome, Matt! Glad I could help.
          Good luck with everything.

  35. Sandra

    Hi at the moment I am working on CDA ON POLITICAL INAUGURAL SPEECHES , CAN I HAVE YOUR CONTACTS FOR A DETAILED CONVERSATION PLEASE?

  36. Aynur

    Thanks very much Florian. One of the clearest explanation of the discourse analysis. I am a first year PhD student in sociology and still trying to figure out the differences between discourse/critical discourse/political discourse analysis. I am working on the indigeneity discourse within Kurdish political movement in Turkey. My focus is more concept and hisorical development of the indigeneity discourse rather than linguistic aspect. My proposal is now based on discourse analysis. I am a bit more certain now, but if you would be able to give me any advice on this, I would appreciate.

    Thanks,

    Aynur

    • Florian Schneider

      Dear Aynur,
      This is indeed an exciting topic, and discourse analysis should serve you well as a methodology. I would recommend the work of Ruth Wodak, since she pays particular attention to discourses in their socio-historical contexts. I keep recommending the two edited volumes she has produced (especially chapter 4 in ‘Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis’, which discusses her ‘discourse-historical’ approach, if I’m not mistaken), but her original studies on (Austrian) nationalist discourses might also be interesting for what you have in mind.
      I hope this helps! Have fun with the project.
      Best – Florian

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