Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nico Carpentier, Free University of Brussels, Belgium - From meta-theory to analysis: A case for discourse theoretical analysis (DTA)

Nico Carpentier begins by commenting that discourse studies can be very confusing simply because of the lack of clarity in the definition of discourse. (Foucault has actually made the definition of discourse even more varied.) Carpentier argues that discourse is reality. Reality is social discourse.

Text can function on a continuum between micro and macro levels, the same goes for context. Micro level context and and text can be exemplified by socio-linguistics and rhetorics. Conversation analysis can be distinguished as slightly more towards the the macro level on each. Then discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis moves further and further towards the macro level and discourse theory analysis represents the macro levels regarding context as well as text.

Front figures of discourse theory: Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Three categories of discourse theory as a framework for analysis: discourse theory in the strict sense, political identity theory (Smith, 1999:87) and radical democratic politics.

Their theory builds on anti-essentialism (the universal exists, but it is an empty place which can be partially filled in a variety of ways) (Laclau, 1996: 59). It has a strong focus on discourse, a structure in which meaning is constantly being negotiated and constructed. "An earthquake or the falling of a brick is an event that certainly exists, in the sense that it occurs here and now, independently of my will. But whether their specificity as objects is constructed in terms of natural phenomena or expressions of the wrath of God depends upon the structuring of a discursive field. What is denied is not that such objects exist externally to thought but the rather different assertions that they could constitute themselves as objects outside any discursive condition of emergence" (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985). It also highlights fixity vs. non-fixity, since, as they argue, a discourse incapable of generating any fixity of meaning is the discourse of the psychotic.

Vocabulary of Laclau and Mouffe
- articulation: linking signifiers and transforming their identity through the articulatory practice (the relationship)
- nodal points: privileged signifiers that guarantee (to a certain degree) the stability of the discourse (the nodes)
- field of discursivity: the surplus (or residue) of elements that prevents the full saturation of meaning and tempts signifiers to float (the larger field)
- floating signifier - a signifier that has slightly different meanings in different discourses
- subject position - the position of subjects within a discursive structure
- overdetermination - the impossibility to reach a final closure, space for subjectivity, through the dislocation s of structures are subjects forced to act, which allows room for agency, freedom
- antagonism - a clash between identities, where these identities threaten and constitute each other (or are interdependent). Antagonists begin to define/articulate each other and require each other.
- hegemonic - these practices are an exemplary form of political articulation which involves linking together different identities into a common porject (cannot achieve full control, since there in that case would be no contingency)
- logic of equivalence/chain of equivalence - from the point of view of the interests of the working class, liberals, conservatives, and radicals are all the same, I have transformed three elements that were different into substitutes within a chain of equivalence (Laclau, 1988: 256).

Nico Carpentier stresses that hegemony makes it impossible to "look beyond the horizon." It structure the way that we feel or think.

- anything other than the prolonged death throes of Marism in general (Sim 1997, 177)
- [Laclau is] a disillusioned Althusserian Marxist of the 1968 new left vintage who now declares himself a post-Marxist
- idealist stance
- primacy of the political over the social
- explicit theoretical development of basic concepts remains minimal
- absence of a methodology
- applicable?

From DT to DTA

Bottom of the triangle: Qualitative research methodology - Focus on meaning, open procedure, sensitizing concepts, iterative procedure
Middle of the triangle: Discourse analysis - Meaning as discourseve structures, of which the major one is discourse itself
Top of the triangle: DTA - Discourse as ideology and representation, articulation and nodal points, hegemony and antagonist identities. The top can be replaced, since other sensitizing concepts can be used.

"Gedanken ohne Inhalt sind leer. Anschauungen ohne Begriffe sind blind" (Kant). DTA: Discourse theory as sensitizing concepts and discourse theory to generate sensitizing concepts.

Example: Audience discussion television programs. What is the role of the audience? Is the approach emancipatory or manipulative? Sensitizing concepts: participation as power, identity and subject positions of the audience, and identity and subject position of the media professional.
Power: Pateman on full and partial participation. Foucault discusses productive power (mobile, multi-directional, practiced, both restrictive and generative). The interaction between restrictive and generative power is what drives the development.
Audience identities: The members of the audience are handpicked in accordance with certain categories. (A model of the field of discursivity.)

Methodological model
Fields of discursivity (DT to reanalyse media theories, theories on journalism and audience theories)
subject positions and subjects in the programmes (Qualitative content analysis of the interviews, integrated gualitative and qunatitative content analysis)
interaction embedded in power relations (Foucault and Giddens) - repressive power (media professionals structure concept, house-rules, topics, additional guests, categorizing and selecting members and pre-structuring), generative power (answer and pose questions, formulate opinions, resist) and productive power.

Strategies of resistance: suggest topics, study on topics, get to know the topic early, ask for an evaluation or drop out of the panel, taking turns themselves or giving others a turn, continue speaking, protesting when interrupted, contesting the structure and contesting the interviewer by questioning participants or by ignoring the questions.

Participant identities produced through the interactions and power negotiations. Antagonist identities: Media professionals (famous, professional), celebrities, experts, politicians and ordinary people (unknown, non-knowledgable, opinionate).

Nico Carpentier's book: Discourse Theory and Cultural Analysis


bathmate said...

Interesting posting. Thanks for the info. Keep up the good work.

Mia said...

Thanks! I'll try to. :)