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Jon Harald Sande Lie

Through its post-structural critique of development, post-development provides a fundamental dismissal of institutional development. Drawing on the work of Foucault, post-development portrays development as a monolithic and hegemonic discourse that constructs rather than solves the problems it purports to address. Yet post-development itself becomes guilty of creating an analysis that loses sight of individuals and agency, being fundamental to its development critique. This article discusses the discourse-agency nexus in light of the post-development context with specific reference to the grand structure-actor conundrum of social theory, and asks whether an actor perspective is compatible with discourse analysis and what—if anything—should be given primacy. It aims to provide insight into social theory and post-development comparatively and, furthermore, to put these in context, with Foucault's work being pivotal to the seminal post-development approach.

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Valerie R. Friesen

In many parts of the developing world, sport is a non-traditional activity for girls, one which is being used increasingly by development organizations for the empowerment of girls and women. However, very little research has been done on the complex subjective perceptions and understandings of the participants themselves. The girls in this study were participants in an after-school program in Windhoek, Namibia, which combines academics and sport. I used discourse analysis to highlight issues of agency, power, and gender that emerge from their reflections on their sport participation. Girls' conversations often revealed acceptance and normalization of dominant gender norms but also a growing critical consciousness, and demonstrated the numerous ways girls resist, negotiate and engage with these discourses through their own perceptions of power, agency, and hope.

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Tatiana Bulgakova

This article discusses the sociological hierarchies among Nanay shamans. The shamans evaluate one another and the community also evaluates them, ranking them in myriad informal ways in terms of effectiveness with spirits and healing power. These rankings come about through discursive activities associated with recounting shamanic healing and other ritual practices. While shamans try to maintain close communicative and social relationships with their community, they actively avoid direct interaction with one another as part of a conflict avoidance strategy.

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The Wrath of Thrasymachus

Value Irrationality and the Failures of Deliberative Democracy

Michael J. Thompson

I present a critique of deliberative democratic theory by arguing that deliberative and discourse-based theories of democracy suffer from what I term 'deliberative failures', which are the result of cognitive distortions of the capacity of individuals to articulate reasonable claims. I call value irrationality that condition where individuals express arguments and receive information biased by certain values and value-orientations that remain untouched by deliberative encounters. Values are irrational when any agent becomes unable to call them into question and when they come to bias the way we process information about the world as well as our own arguments. This results in what I term 'epistemological warping' or the systemic biasing of our epistemic capacities to evaluate information, the arguments of others, inhibiting our knowledge about the world, ourselves and others. I put forward an alternative direction for democratic theorists to move, back to the questions of social structure, forms of socialisation and their ability to shape the value-orientations of individuals.

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The Theatre of Human Trafficking

A Global Discourse on Lao Stages

Roy Huijsmans

Using the Lao PDR as a case study, this paper analyses human trafficking as discourse. Human trafficking is identified as a global discourse that is globalized through a set of powerful relations and actors. Following Appadurai, it is argued that this global discourse is not passively received by local actors such as the Lao state. This demonstrated by unravelling the global–local interactions through which it has entered the Lao social landscape. This is complemented with an analysis of a series of events in which the human trafficking discourse is staged on Lao soil. On this basis, the paper argues that the global human trafficking discourse is actively indigenized through, amongst other things, the social practice of staging. In addition, the paper argues that this indigenized discourse is employed by actors in more localized power struggles; in this case, by the Lao state as a response to boundary crises triggered by the phenomenon of cross-border migration into Thailand as an important manifestation of the overarching process of transition.

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Derek Hook

There can be little doubt that discourse analysis has come to represent something of a ‘growth industry’ in the critical social sciences. Indeed, there has been, together with a proliferation of the various models of the process of discourse analysis (cf. Bannister 1995; Fairclough 1995; Parker 1992; Potter & Wetherell 1987) a veritable explosion of discursive analytic work. This almost unfettered expansion of discursive analytic work has led almost inevitably to a variety of misapplications of the work of Michel Foucault, whose name is often attached, almost as matter of course, to varieties of discourse analysis.

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'Greater good' in transit

The unwieldy career of a Swedish rail tunnel project

Åsa Boholm

Large-scale technological projects are born as visions among politicians and leaders of industry. For such visions to become real, they must be transformed from a virtual existence in the minds of their creators to a reality that can be accepted, even welcomed, by the public, not least by the communities who will become neighbors to those projects. Democracy implies that political decisions over the expenditure of public funds should answer not merely to the partial interests of stakeholders but should be accountable to the 'greater good' of society at large. Since a technological project materializes in what Latour calls a 'variable ontology-world', the greater good associated with it can be expected to be dynamic and shifting. The Hallandsås railway tunnel in southwestern Sweden illustrates how the very premises of the project's organizational logic have changed over time, the discourse of the greater good moving from an economical focus to an environmental one.

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Robert Darnton

The article critically explores the different paths chosen by closely related historical disciplines: intellectual history and the history of books. While the former has focused on discourse analysis, the latter has given more attention to the study of diffusion. Historians who study the diffusion of books commonly run into a difficulty: the best-sellers of the past may serve as an indicator of public taste, but they may also be trivial, and they do not necessarily lead to explanations of important events such as the Reformation and the French Revolution. On the other hand, discourse analysis is confined to a narrow band of textual evidence, and thus cannot provide much insight on the values and views of ordinary people caught up in the patterns of everyday life. The author concludes by discussing how the history of books, particularly the history of reading and the history of publishing, can have important implications for the study of discourse.

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Robert Darnton

The article critically explores the different paths chosen by closely related historical disciplines: intellectual history and the history of books. While the former has focused on discourse analysis, the latter has given more attention to the study of diffusion. Historians who study the diffusion of books commonly run into a difficulty: the best-sellers of the past may serve as an indicator of public taste, but they may also be trivial, and they do not necessarily lead to explanations of important events such as the Reformation and the French Revolution. On the other hand, discourse analysis is confined to a narrow band of textual evidence, and thus cannot provide much insight on the values and views of ordinary people caught up in the patterns of everyday life. The author concludes by discussing how the history of books, particularly the history of reading and the history of publishing, can have important implications for the study of discourse.

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Discourse of Decline

Local Perspectives on Magic in Highland Jambi, Indonesia

J. David Neidel

Scholarly studies of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft have differed in their conclusions about the empirical efficacy of such practices and the persistence of related concepts. Often marginalized in these accounts, however, are local commentaries that address those same issues. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research in the highland Jambi region of central Sumatra, this article examines magical practices found in the region, the modes through which they are acquired, and connections to a set of ethereal beings that lie at the source of those supernatural abilities. While the belief in and practice of magical powers remain widespread, there exists a general 'discourse of decline'. This article analyzes several elements of that discourse, particularly declining potency, practice, relevance, and believability, showing where local perspectives converge and diverge with those that underlie alternative scholarly frameworks.