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tracking discourses

Tracking Discourses Politics, Identity and Social Change

Edited by Annika Egan Sjรถlander & Jenny Gunnarsson Payne

nordic academic press

Nordic Academic Press P.O. Box 1206 SE-221 05 Lund, Sweden

© Nordic Academic Press and the authors 2011 Typesetting: Frederic Täckström, Cover: Lönegård & Co Coverphoto: Print: ScandBook, Falun, Sweden 2011 ISBN: 978-91-85509-39-3

Contents Preface 7 1. Introduction Comparing Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse Theory


Annika Egan Sjölander

2. Critique Disarmed, Ideas Unharmed


A Laclauian Approach to Emancipatory Ideas David Payne & Jenny Gunnarsson Payne

3. Reforming Education


Gendered Constructions of Future Workers Sara Carlbaum

4. Re-Evaluating the Meaning of School Difficulties


Joakim Isaksson

5. Cameroonian Students in Higher Swedish Education


Jonathan Ngeh

6. The Construction of Paternity Leave in Swedish Television


Mathias Sylwan

7. Constituting ‘Real’ Cutters

A Discourse Theoretical Analysis of Self-Harm and Identity


Anna Johansson

8. A Mediated Discourse Analysis of Pseudonymous Blogging Stephanie Faye Hendrick


9. The Discursive Construction of a Responsible Corporate Self

Alon Lischinsky

10. Exploring Ideological Fantasies on the Move


Angelika SjĂśstedt LandĂŠn

11. Ageing in the Norrlandic Inland



Anna Sofia Lundgren

Contributors 339

Preface It is such a pleasure to finally write the very first words of Tracking Discourses. As is often said, the end marks a new beginning, and as authors we are all excited to hear about our readers’ responses to our joint attempt at gaining a better grasp of the complexities involved in investigating how discourses can be understood, and more importantly, analysed in practice. Even though the research presented in this book is primarily conducted within a variety of Swedish contexts, in which a range of different discourses are explored and scrutinised, the contributions deal with more general problems that transcend its geographical scope. These main issues that the book addresses are summarised in its subtitle: politics, identity and social change. The discourse analytical perspectives dealt with in this book have gained increased attention in the last decades among Scandinavian scholars of various disciplines; however, such applications are not yet substantially reflected in English-language or other international scholarly literature. This multidisciplinary collection is therefore an attempt to fill a gap in the existing body of literature. The contributions are from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities such as political science, sociology, social work, media and communication studies, ethnology and linguistics. We hope to present the reader with an insight into the ways in which discourse analytical perspectives have been received and re-worked in Swedish academia. The emphasis lies on the empirical use of various theoretical perspectives; a subject that has engaged many discourse analytical scholars around the world during the last decade. This point in time would not have arrived without the thorough support of many people and institutions along the way. First of all we want to thank all the invited guest lecturers to the Ph.D. course ‘Perspectives on Discourse Analysis: Democracy, Politics and Social Change’ for their generous contributions and willingness to take part 7

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in a (self-)reflective dialogue in relation to the research traditions of discourse theory (DT) and critical discourse analysis (CDA). We could not have hoped for a better outcome when the initial idea to study these popular traditions together was firstly formulated in the summer of 2006. We were also imbued with energy when it was discovered that everyone we approached was interested in taking part in the project. Apart from the project initiators and editors, Dr Annika Egan Sjölander, senior lecturer at Umeå University, Sweden and Dr Jenny Gunnarsson Payne, lecturer and researcher at Södertörn University, Sweden, the guest teachers have included the CDA scholars Dr Michał Krzyżanowski, senior research fellow at Lancaster University, UK, and Dr Peter Berglez, associate professor at Örebro University, Sweden, and two DT scholars from the University of Essex, UK: Dr Aletta Norval, reader and director of the Ph.D. programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis, and Dr Jason Glynos, senior lecturer. We would also like to express our gratitude to Professor Ruth Wodak, distinguished professor in discourse studies at Lancaster University, Professor Lilie Chouliaraki, professor from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Dr David Howarth, reader and co-director of the Centre for Theoretical Studies, for showing interest and support in the initial planning process of the project. One of the authors in this book, David Payne, is enrolled in the IDA Ph.D. programme at the University of Essex and gave a lecture about the Marxist influence on discourse analysis. The focus on the exchange of thoughts between leading representatives of these two traditions was a rather unusual exercise at the time. Since then, similar types of meetings between scholars of DT and CDA have been set up by others, and their aims have also been to investigate the similarities and differences between these (and other) influential schools within the field of discourse studies (cf. Glynos et al. 2009).1 These meeting points continue to constitute important places of discovery, and there are several strands of thought that need to be investigated in more depth – if not to identify common features and possible points of cross-fertilisation, then to flesh out variations in more detail. The atmosphere and dialogue during our talks can be summarised mainly as a manifestation of 8


commonalities between the two approaches. The different kinds of overlaps that were discussed and how distinctions were articulated will be presented in the following Introduction. Apart from the curiosity and substantial commitment from the doctoral students who took part in the Ph.D. course ‘Perspectives on Discourse Analysis: Democracy, Politics and Social Change’ – many of whom have contributed to this volume – there is one person in particular who has made the ‘book dream’ a reality; namely, our publisher Annika Olsson from Nordic Academic Press, Lund. Of crucial importance for completing the book was also our editor Magnus Ingvarsson, whose expertise as well as helpful and positive attitude carried us through the final stages of publication. In addition, our warmest thanks go to Adrián Groglopo, Ph.D. student from the Socio­logy Department at Umeå University, who came up with the main title for the book: Tracking Discourses. Dr Martin Shaw, our English language editor from Språkcentrum (also at Umeå University), has been a wonder of patience to work with and we are very grateful for his help. Our former librarian at the Umeå University Library, the late Ludmila Andersson, also deserves to be mentioned and especially remembered for making sure that all the course books, including suggested reference literature, were easily available. Her professional service enabled us to improve the library’s body of literature in this vibrant field of research, and this will be of great benefit for future users. During the work with this book, one of the editors (Egan Sjölander) also had the privilege of taking part in the lively seminars of the Language-Ideology-Power group at Lancaster University, led by Ruth Wodak. These encounters provided important levels of input to the project, especially regarding the understanding of CDA and its many varieties. Two other individuals have steadfastedly supported the whole project and helped out along the way by encouraging us to be innovative and to find alternative ways to secure the funding that has been required to row this relatively ambitious project ashore. The first person is Dr Bo Nilsson, the former head of the Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University, who encouraged us to pursue our ideas from the very beginning, and the second is the current head of department, Dr Kerstin Engström, who also provided vital support at the very 9

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end of the working process regarding practical administrative matters. Thanks also to Ulla Westermark, who worked diligently for several years on the administration of the projects and took care of the financial accounts. We have been fortunate to receive essential financial support from several external and internal institutions. The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) contributed with a generous grant in relation to the Ph.D. course. The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities (Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien) and the Letterstedska Association (Letterstedska föreningen) helped in meeting the costs of guest lecturers. Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) contributed with substantial funding covering the expenses for meetings and building up the contact network necessary for carrying through this project. Besides the financial support from the Department of Culture and Media Studies regarding some overhead costs, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences, including the Graduate School in Population Dynamics and Public Policy, all contributed to covering the costs associated with both the Ph.D. course and the consequent book production. The central administration at Umeå University also catered for some of the essential ‘fika’ breaks during this intellectual endeavour. Many thanks to all. Annika Egan Sjölander, on behalf of the editors


1 Two such examples are the project ‘Discourse Analysis Network’, which was supported during 2008/2009 by the UK Economic Social Research Council’s National Centre for Research Methods Networks for Methodological Innovation, and a Ph.D. course that was arranged by Roskilde University at the end of 2009 called ‘Applying Discourse Theory and CDA in the study of media, images and film’. Both editors had the advantage of participating in the final closing workshop of the UK network in Essex in April 2009 and to present and discuss our respective discourse analytical research with a diverse group of researchers (Egan Sjölander 2009; Gunnarsson Payne 2009).




Egan Sjölander, A., 2009. Rare and Fruitful – The Concrete Use of Foucault’s Discourse Theory in Media and Communication Research. Paper presented at the ESRC Networks for Methodological Innovation’s Conference in Discourse Analysis held at the University of Essex, UK, April 2009. Glynos, J., Howarth, D., Norval, A. & Speed, E., 2009. Discourse Analysis: Varieties and Methods. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods Review Paper. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. NCRM/014. August 2009. Gunnarsson Payne, J., 2009. Beyond Different Wave-Lengths in the Study of Feminist Media. Paper presented at the ESRC Networks for Methodological Innovation’s Conference in Discourse Analysis held at the University of Essex, UK, April 2009.


chapter 1

Introduction Comparing Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse Theory Annika Egan Sjölander

Ever since the linguistic turn, the study of ‘discourse’ has become increasingly popular in a wide range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences (Howarth 2007, p. 10; Wodak & Krzyżanowski 2008, p. 1).1 As Aletta Norval (1999, p. 1) writes, the linguistic turn in the social sciences and humanities not only indicated a renewed interest in language as such, but also implied a realisation that language is at least partly constitutive of the world, rather than merely a mirror of it, as was previously the predominant view (cf. Alvesson & Kärreman 2000, p. 137).2 As a consequence of this widespread activity in the discourse analytical field, the notion of ‘discourse’ has come to include not only analysis of text in the strict sense of the word, but is also frequently used to interpret wider cultural and socio-political processes. The meaning of politics, formations of identities and the possibilities of social change are all issues that capture the interest of the authors in this volume, as well as discourse analytical scholars all around the world. In Discourse in Late Modernity: Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis, Lilie Chouliaraki and Norman Fairclough (1999, p. 4) argue that there is room, and a great need for, ‘critical analysis of discourse as a fundamental element in the critical theorisation and analysis of late modernity’. Several of the case studies presented in this volume deal with contemporary issues and living conditions in the early twentyfirst century, such as the meaning of an ageing population (Chapter 11 by Lundgren) or the discrimination of immigrants (Chapter 5 by Ngeh). In Chouliaraki and Fairclough’s (1999) frequently referred 13

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to book, the authors embark on a ‘transdisciplinary’ expedition with various theorists about social life, critical research on social change, and contemporary conditions in late modern societies.3 Their aims are to establish a better theoretical basis for critical discourse analysis, as well as to show the tradition’s contribution regarding the analysis of language and discourse, which has become all the more important in critical social science in general (Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999, p. 4). Since then, Fairclough (2003) has himself continued this pedagogic ambition by attempting to provide scholars in the social sciences and humanities with a useable framework for analysing spoken and written language.4 In the introduction to Discourse Theory and Political Analysis: Identities, Hegemonies and Social Change, David Howarth and Yannis Stavrakakis (2000, p. 1) point out the need for political analysis from different discourse analytical perspectives. The authors stress the importance of conducting more research focused on ‘key political issues’, such as populist and nationalist ideologies, new social movements and diverse forms of hegemonic struggles, which they claim have been missing. Analyses of this type were subsequently presented in Howarth et al. (2000), and build on the research programme of discourse theory that was originally formulated by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985/2001) in their ‘modern classic’ Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. Several of the authors in Tracking Discourses also devote their attention to what could be classified as key political issues. One example is an analysis of the controversial issue of paternity leave, inspired by Michel Foucault’s (1993/1971) understanding of discourse(s) (Chapter 6 by Sylwan). Others apply central concepts within discourse theory, and not only from Laclau’s and Mouffe’s respective writings (cf. Chapter 3 by Carlbaum), but also from the ‘logics approach’ that has been developed by Jason Glynos and David Howarth (2007) in Logics of Critical Explanation in Social and Political Theory (cf. Chapter 10 by Sjöstedt Landén). Here, Glynos and Howarth (2007, p. 4) strive to ‘develop an approach that respects the self-interpretations of social actors, while not reducing explanations to their subjective viewpoints alone’, and to search for ‘a type of explanation that admits of a certain generality, provides space for critique, and yet respects 14

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the specificity of the case under investigation’. Building on Laclau’s previous work, the authors formulate a poststructuralist alternative to what they define as dominant paradigms in social science, such as positivism and hermeneutics. Based on their particular ontological and epistemological standpoints, Glynos and Howarth (2007, pp. 11, 28) also contest what Roy Bhaskar and his critical realist followers (cf. Archer et al. 1998) suggest as an alternative to positivism.5

Purpose The aim of this introduction is threefold. The first purpose is to discuss the motives for the study of critical discourse analysis (henceforth CDA) and discourse theory (henceforth DT) in parallel. This is partly in order to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind the previous lack of dialogue between the perspectives. It is also motivated by the need within the field to further clarify unarticulated understandings of key concepts such as ‘critical’ and ‘discourse’ (including their relation to the ‘non-discursive’). These unexplained viewpoints tend to generate confusion and obscure significant differences in standpoints between researchers. The second purpose is to explore some of the crucial similarities and differences between the traditions that have been revealed, and especially in relation to the common themes that are dealt with in this book: politics, identity and social change. I will do so by discussing literature and by ‘narrating’ or ‘documenting’ parts of the dialogue that took place between leading representatives of CDA and DT during a roundtable discussion on these issues held in October 2008.6 Part of our overall ambition with the whole project was to create this meeting point between the two perspectives. A third purpose is to provide some background, as well as to introduce the structure and the collection of contributions presented in Tracking Discourses. As is the case in any research activity, it is meaningful to understand the context within which a project unfolds. In essence, I would argue, that is the meaning behind the idea of knowledge being ‘socially constructed’ (Berger & Luckmann 1991/1966; Burr 2003). In what follows I will describe the focus of our joint project 15

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and the rationale for undertaking it. Thereafter, I will share a few thoughts from the editors’ point of view regarding this comparison and present some of my own discourse analytical research. I will then sketch important influences and features in each of the studied ‘schools’, including work of its main representatives, and how the authors in this book have made use of their respective perspectives. In the next section I will discuss crucial similarities and differences between CDA and DT. Finally, I will introduce the overall aim and structure of the book, including the different contributions to Tracking Discourses.

Focus and motives CDA and DT represent two highly influential traditions within the discourse analytical field as a whole. Both schools have been of great importance and they continue to inspire researchers, also in Scandinavia.7 This is one important reason why the two schools have been our main focus in the Ph.D. course ‘Perspectives on Discourse Analysis: Democracy, Politics and Social Change’ and when conducting the empirical research that is presented here. However, despite this shared interest in CDA and DT, some authors have found it more relevant to explore and apply other variations within the discourse analytical field. Mediated discourse analysis (henceforth MDA), which was developed by Ron Scollon, Suzie Scollon, Sigrid Norris and others, is one such example, and has been used in the analysis of blogging practices (Chapter 8 by Faye Hendrick).8 Another important motive for us to focus on CDA and DT has been these traditions’ strong commitments to discuss, and to explore in depth, issues relating to democracy, politics and social change. These focal points overlap with our own common knowledge interests. Even though one can easily identify commonalities between the two schools, such as a poststructuralist influence combined with a conflict theoretical perspective, in the main they do appear to have developed separately from each other. This in itself constitutes a third reason motivating us to study both perspectives in parallel. We have been curious to learn more about the reasons why dialogue between the two has been so rare until relatively recently. Given the 16

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degree of similar research interests and common intellectual ‘heritage’, this scarcity of dialogue seems puzzling, at a glance.9 In order to gain a better grasp of each tradition, the curriculum of the Ph.D. course focused on ontological and epistemological presuppositions, ‘classic’ texts, as well as key concepts within CDA and DT. We also looked at more recent theoretical developments and methodological strategies, and studied their contributions to contemporary debates on democracy, politics and social change.

The author’s position It is indeed a challenge to capture these multifaceted traditions in a sensible way. This task is made all the more difficult as I have not conducted research specifically within any of the studied discourse analytical schools before and could therefore be viewed as somewhat of an outsider to both. This might on the other hand be seen as an advantage from the comparative point of view, because I have not previously invested heavily in either of the perspectives.10 Readers also ought to keep in mind what has been stated many times: most discourse analytical perspectives are diverse in and of themselves (Winther Jørgensen & Phillips 1999, pp. 72, 121; Glynos et al. 2009).11 According to Jacob Torfing (2005, p. 5), there are many traditions that internally ‘vary both according to their understanding of discourse and their understanding of the imbrication of language and political power struggles’. Furthermore, as reinforced by the panel participants during the roundtable discussion, different researchers tend to develop their own interpretations and specialities within each school. In my understanding of CDA and DT, the former seems to be more internally diverse than the latter. One crucial factor that produces this diversity within CDA consists of the eclectic approaches that are nurtured through the strong multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary commitment of several of its scholars (cf. Weiss & Wodak 2003; Wodak & Chilton 2005; Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999).12 In my thesis, Kärnproblem (Sjölander 2004), the societal handling of highly radioactive and long-lived nuclear waste from power production was studied. The thesis had a particular focus on the sense-making 17


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