Discourse and Critique - SAGE Journals - SAGE Publications

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State University of New York at Albany. Monica Heller. University ... traditions of discourse analysis in Europe and North America that are com- mitted to reflexive ...

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Discourse and Critique: Part One Introduction Jan Blommaert Ghent University

James Collins State University of New York at Albany

Monica Heller University of Toronto

Ben Rampton King’s College, London

Stef Slembrouck Ghent University

Jef Verschueren University of Antwerp

As the recent republication of some of Dell Hymes’s papers from the 1960s and early 1970s makes clear, programmes for linking social critique to empirical research on language and discourse reach back at least 30 or 40 years (Hymes, 1969, 1996). So why ‘discourse and critique’ right now? The factors motivating the present collection are broadly two-fold. First, there has been surprisingly little transatlantic contact between the traditions of discourse analysis in Europe and North America that are committed to reflexive investigation of constitutive relations between language, ideology and inequality.1 Both critical discourse analysis (CDA) in Europe and linguistic anthropology (LA) in the USA are concerned with the links between language, discourse and larger social processes, with the problems of how to capture this relationship, and with the politics of research itself (see Blommaert and Bulcaen, 2000, for a fuller discussion), but in the absence of any dialogue between them, the differences are more striking than the similarities. Whereas CDA generally centres on lexico-grammatical meaning in written and mass-mediated texts, LA leans much more to ethnographically grounded analysis of indexical meaning in face-to-face interaction, and where false consciousness and ideology-as-mystification Vol 21(1) 5–12 [0308-275X(200103)21:1; 5–12;016269] Copyright 2001 © SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)

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figure large in the former, the latter inclines more to ideology-as-culture with less attention to material conditions and social structuration. In terms of practical intervention, CDA takes popular deconstruction of the discourse of oppressive commercial and state institutions as its mission, while LA inclines towards defence and de-stigmatization of the speech of groups and communities who are themselves oppressed. No doubt there is an element of oversimplification in this comparison, but the articles in this collection are drawn together in the belief that this is a relationship that deserves further exploration, and that CDA and LA might in fact turn out to be complementary in their strengths and weaknesses. Second, the intellectual and material changes associated with late modernity have intensified rather than attenuated the need for examination of these issues. In the present intellectual climate, there is a pressing need to reformulate some of the most basic ways in which discourse analysis has conceptualized its relation to social critique. A decline in the authority of grand theories about the direction of history unsettles the ontological foundations of CDA, implying the need to think more empirically about the distribution and social embedding of texts (Fairclough, 1992: 223; Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999: 33ff), and for both CDA and LA, postmodern attacks on dominant/prevailing notions of objectivity and reality have raised the problem of how to arrive at general conclusions in an adequate and convincing way without having to understand them as objective. Beyond that, there is also the prospect of having to respond to continually shifting notions of knowledge and subjectivity. Turning to changing material conditions, global commerce and communications force LA to think about mass-mediated discourse, to address the dislocation and commodification of ‘folk’ products and identities, and to reorient itself to flows as much as settlements (Gal and Woolard, 1995: 134–5; Heller, 1999; Rampton, 1998; Scollon, 1998; Spitulnik, 1998). And for academics generally, Hymes’s 1969 call for them to reassess traditional relationships between university research and socio-political processes has become almost inescapable with the top-down reorganization of higher education, often along neo-liberal lines (Fairclough, 1993; Collins et al., 1999; Hymes, 1999: xxxi; see also Rampton, 1995). What is the role of critique, or for that matter, anthropology, in a situation in which the nature of discourse, including how it is linked to the construction of power and inequality, is subject to fast and far-reaching change? These, then, are the issues that provide much of the impetus behind the articles that follow.2 In addition, the authors try to take stock of what has been going on in their own fields. The last decade has produced both new research and some rediscoveries of older literature. We have witnessed an upsurge of interactional, dialogical and ethnographic approaches in many branches of language study (including sociolinguistics).3 Jan Blommaert’s paper, ‘Context is/as Critique’, opens the discussion and comes closest to being a map for the rest. It begins by observing that

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‘critique’ in discourse analysis is generally located at the intersection of language patterns and social structure, usually captured under the labels ‘text’ and ‘context’ respectively. Then, it moves into a critical comparison of the treatment of context in critical discourse analysis and in conversation analysis, two branches of discourse analysis in which, in one way or another, critical claims have been addressed. Even so, both ‘schools’ appear to have difficulties with the ‘critical’ situating of discourse in relevant contexts, and three ‘forgotten contexts’ are mentioned: the distribution of linguistic resources, text trajectories in which texts move across contexts, and the specific histories of linguistic data (i.e. the ‘text trajectory’ that starts with fieldwork and ends with analysis and circulation). Blommaert thus suggests that in both its CDA and conversation analytic versions, discourse analysis could benefit from sociolinguistic treatments of context and from linguistic-anthropological insights into entextualization and discourse histories. Of the articles in the collection, Stef Slembrouck’s ‘Explanation, Interpretation and Critique in the Analysis of Discourse’ starts closest to CDA. After offering a background to its development, it points to some enduring contradictions inherent in the paradigm: while on the one hand, as a remnant of the days of the ‘grand narratives’, explanatory power is often located rather exclusively in social theory (endowing the social-theoretically informed discourse analyst with unique and superior insights), on the other there is also an insistence on the importance of participant understandings, situated outlook and institutional intervention, etc. The alternative to this contradictory position lies, Slembrouck suggests, in a reflexive understanding of analytical practice – a project which harmonizes with recent enquiries into practices of (re)contextualization and entextualization in linguistic anthropology. Following a ‘natural history’ of one instance of his own research practice, he develops the point that reflexivity entails more than can be captured under the heading of moral, ethical or political beliefs or convictions which inform research. Positioning equally follows from the situatedness of the discursive modalities through which research is done, and this can be embraced as a useful premise for interpretative dialogue with the researched communities. Jef Verschueren’s article, ‘Predicaments of Criticism’, uses extensive experience in the analysis of mass-mediated political debate (Blommaert and Verschueren, 1998) to provide a review of some methodological limitations of CDA. Using counter-analyses of published examples, he argues for greater sensitivity to the contexts of media texts and against the explanatory (rather than interpretative) ambitions of social-theoretic discourse analyses. His criticisms are formulated against the background of a theory of linguistic pragmatics which emphasizes the dynamics of meaning-generation in discourse (see Verschueren, 1999), and, in an extensive re-analysis of doctor–patient interactions, he argues that how conversational moves are analytically characterized – their ‘metapragmatic framing’ – reveals analysts’ language ideologies more than the institutional forces supposedly

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constraining interaction. Verschueren calls for attention to be paid to empirical issues of evidence and argumentation, and for appreciation of the negotiability of meaning, and in the process he raises fundamental questions about the authority of the expert voice. With Ben Rampton’s article, ‘Critique in Interaction’, the focus shifts to interactional sociolinguistics, a tradition of micro-analysis that is much more a part of linguistic anthropology than of CDA. Interactional sociolinguistics (IS) is generally less explicit about its political goals than CDA, but equity issues have in fact been an enduring concern (Gumperz, 1982; Roberts et al., 1992), and Rampton’s article tries to specify the distinctive contribution that this kind of micro-analysis can make to a more broadly focused understanding of power and ideology. Using a case study of adolescents talking broad London, it illustrates how the wider cultural concerns of symbolic anthropology can be inserted into Goffman’s interaction order (cf. Goffman, 1983; Abrahams, 1984; Foley, 1990), and it argues that Voloshinov’s (1973) distinction between ‘behavioural’ and ‘established ideology’ provides a useful way of clarifying the differences between IS and CDA. Monica Heller’s article, ‘Critique and Sociolinguistic Analysis of Discourse’, shifts the emphasis from the evaluation of methodology to an exemplification of critical analysis at work. Her substantive objective is to show how globalization and the new economy shift linguistic minority movements from discourses of community rights to discourses of linguistic commodification. She does this by examining the specific case of a francophone community organization in Ontario. Her methodological aim is to link close analysis of organizational activities to an ethnography based on the political economic history of the organization, its region and ethnolinguistic stratification in Canada. Texts here are understood as elements of flow or process connected to conditions of discursive production and development. The penultimate article, Jim Collins’s ‘Selling the Market: Educational Standards, Discourse and Social Inequality’, brings the collection full circle, implementing CDA and LA methods side by side in an empirical analysis of speeches, policy statements and interviews addressing educational standards reform in the United States. He argues that the debate about school reform is a shifting, contested discourse, in which neo-liberal tropes are prominent in the dominant rhetorics, while rank-and-file teachers voice a social democratic concern for the inegalitarian outcomes of current reform. His analysis explores how participants in this contested discourse – for example, both labour elites advocating ‘tougher standards’ and classroom teachers expressing concerns about top-down institutional changes – position themselves through the descriptions they choose, the real and virtual interaction roles they assume, and the framings their arguments evoke. Focusing upon interactional and society-wide dimensions of situated discourse, he finds complementary strengths and weaknesses in the CDA and LA approaches.

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The concluding contribution, from Mary Bucholtz, engages the articles on questions of theory, method and ethics. She draws upon feminist and post-structuralist traditions, now informing currents within linguistic anthropology (Bucholtz et al., 1999), in order to expand the discussion of the meaning of critique while assessing strengths and weaknesses of the collective effort and of individual articles. The authors of this volume capitalize on the ‘linguistic turn’ in the social sciences. But instead of working with rather general and undifferentiated notions of text and discourse, they try to draw some recent developments in the technical analysis of empirical discourse into a wider and more multi-faceted social-scientific project. The symbolic has come to be accepted as a crucial element in social reality (see e.g. Thompson, 1990), and these articles explore the concrete shape and function of social symbolic patterns and phenomena. In this they are joined by work in LA and CDA in which readings of social-cum-discourse theory – Bakhtin, Bernstein, Foucault, Giddens, Gramsci, Habermas – inform what is called pragmatics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology (e.g. Schieffelin et al., 1998). In such work, detail matters and needs to be addressed: here we intimate our realist commitments and our belief in the power of description-interpretation as a tool of critical understanding. But at the same time, of course, ‘discourse is not all’, and it is important to avoid the fallacy of reducing social realities to text and discourse. Rather than collapsing society into language, the authors in this issue explore the potential of historical and practice-oriented approaches to language, addressing it as a social and cultural phenomenon which needs to be analysed both in its own detail and in relation to other social and cultural phenomena. It remains to be emphasized that these articles represent individual and collective work-in-progress, questions pursued, not positions secured. As members of the FWO Onderzoeks-gemeenschap ‘Taal, macht en identiteit’/Research Group on ‘Language, Power and Identity’, we are searching for ways to develop a situated and critical style of sociolinguistic/social analysis, with a reflexive relation to our fields of research. As a first step we present a collection of articles which engage CDA and LA – two dominant approaches to understanding the social/discursive in the contemporary era – in order to work towards more adequate alternatives. Although the analyses that follow may be centred in the specifics of linguistic form and microanalytic situation, they address problems familiar to the readers of this journal: the relation between ethnographic detail and general theory, between the textual and the social, and between producing knowledge and acting in the world. The contributions to this special issue grapple with problems of critique – theoretical, methodological and substantive – in an era of few certainties about knowledge, action or history. Due to unforeseen space constraints, what had been conceived as a single issue will be occurring in two issues of COA: 21(1) (this issue) and 21(2) ( June 2001). The articles by Jan Blommaert, Stef Slembrouck, Jef

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Verschueren, and Ben Rampton will appear in this issue, and the articles by Monica Heller and James Collins, as well as Mary Bucholtz’s concluding essay, will appear in COA 21(2).

Notes 1

2

3

There are no references, for example, to Fairclough (1989, 1992) or Wodak (1996) in Duranti and Goodwin (1992), Silverstein and Urban (1996), Duranti (1997) or Briggs (1996), while equally, there is nothing on, say, Gal (1989) or Briggs (1996) in Caldas-Coulthard and Coulthard (1996), Fairclough (1992, 1995) or Fairclough and Wodak (1997), and nothing of Hymes’s articles on critique (for instance, Hymes, 1973/1996, 1969/1999). Similarly, Hasan (1998) has numerous references to social semiotic studies of the 1990s but does not refer to any work in linguistic anthropology since Gumperz (1971) and Hymes (1967). At the same time, however, all of them refer to Foucault, Bourdieu and Bakhtin (although, admittedly, French theory has so far been much less influential in the North American linguistic anthropology). The volume represents the first collaborative publication produced by the FWO Onderzoeks-gemeenschap ‘Taal, macht en identiteit’/Research Group on ‘Language, Power and Identity’ (http: //bank.rug.ac.be/lpi/ ), funded by the Belgian Science Foundation – Flanders (1999–2004). Most of these articles were first presented at a panel session entitled ‘The Relevance of Critique in Discourse Analysis’ at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Chicago, where Mary Bucholtz was the invited discussant, and we anticipate further joint work around the issues sketched in this introduction. We would like to thank the Belgian Science Foundation (Flanders) for their support in this venture. In this context, the authors are aware that attendant ‘labels’ such as discourse analysis, pragmatics, ethnography and sociolinguistics – never far out of sight in the transatlantic academic landscape – are often problematic, being invested with viewpoints which originate in diverging academic patronage, settlements and local lineage.

References Abrahams, Roger (1984) ‘Goffman Reconsidered: Pros and Players’, Raritan: A Quarterly Review 3(4): 76–94. Blommaert, Jan and Chris Bulcaen (2000) ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 447–66. Blommaert, Jan and Jef Verschueren (1998) Debating Diversity: Analysing the Discourse of Tolerance. London: Routledge. Briggs, Charles, ed. (1996) Disorderly Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bucholtz, M., A.C. Liang and L.A. Sutton, eds (1999) Reinventing Identities. New York: Oxford University Press. Caldas-Coulthard, C. and Malcolm Coulthard, eds (1996) Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge. Chouliaraki, Lilie and Norman Fairclough (1999) Discourse in Late Modernity: Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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11 Blommaert et al.: Introduction Collins, James, John Calagione and Fiona Thompson, eds (1999) Culture, Dream and Political Economy: Higher Education and Late Capitalism. Special issue of International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 12(3). Duranti, Alessando (1997) Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Duranti, Alessando and Charles Goodwin, eds (1992) Rethinking Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fairclough, Norman (1989) Language and Power. London: Longman. Fairclough, Norman (1992) Discourse and Social Change. Oxford: Polity Press. Fairclough, Norman (1993) ‘Critical Discourse Analysis and the Marketisation of Public Discourse: The Universities’, Discourse and Society 4: 133–68. (Also in Fairclough, 1995: 130–66.) Fairclough, Norman (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Longman. Fairclough, Norman and Ruth Wodak (1997) ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, in Teun Van Dijk (ed.) Discourse as Social Interaction, pp. 258–84. London: Sage. Foley, Douglas (1990) Learning Capitalist Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gal, Susan (1989) ‘Language and Political Economy’, Annual Review of Anthropology 18: 345–69. Gal, Susan and Katherine Woolard (1995) ‘Constructing Languages and Publics: Authority and Representation’, Pragmatics 5(2): 129–38. Goffman, Erving (1983) ‘The Interaction Order’, American Sociological Review 48: 1–17. Gumperz, John (1971) Language in Social Groups. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Gumperz, John (1982) Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hasan, Ruquaiya (1998) ‘The Disempowerment Game: Bourdieu and Language in Literacy Studies’, Linguistics and Education 10(1): 25–88. Heller, Monica (1999) Linguistic Minorities and Modernity. London: Longman. Hymes, Dell (1967) ‘Models of the Interaction of Language and Social Setting’, Journal of Social Issues 23: 8–28. Hymes, Dell (1969) ‘The Uses of Anthropology: Critical, Political, Personal’, in Dell Hymes (ed.) Reinventing Anthropology. New York: Random House. (Reprinted in Hymes, ed., 1999, Reinventing Anthropology, pp. 3–79. Michigan: Ann Arbor Paperbacks.) Hymes, Dell (1973) ‘Speech and Language: On the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Speakers’, Daedalus 103(3): 59–86. (Also in Hymes, 1996: 25–62.) Hymes, Dell (1996) Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality. London: Taylor & Francis. Rampton, Ben (1995) ‘Politics and Change in Research in Applied Linguistics’, Applied Linguistics 16(2): 233–56. Rampton, Ben (1998) ‘Speech Community’, in Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Oestman, Jan Blommaert and Chris Bulcaen (eds) Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Roberts, Celia, Evelyn Davies and Tom Jupp (1992) Language and Discrimination. London: Longman. Schieffelin, Bambi, Katherine Woolard and Paul Kroskrity, eds (1998) Language Ideologies. New York: Oxford University Press. Scollon, Ron (1998) Mediated Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Longman. Silverstein, Michael and Greg Urban, eds (1996) Natural Histories of Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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12 Critique of Anthropology 21(1) Spitulnik, Deborah (1998) ‘Mediating Unity and Diversity: The Production of Language Ideologies in Zambian Broadcasting’, in Bambi Schieffelin, Katherine Woolard and Paul Kroskrity (eds) Language Ideologies, pp. 163–88. New York: Oxford University Press. Thompson, John (1990) Ideology in Modern Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. Verschueren, Jef (1999) Understanding Pragmatics. London: Edward Arnold. Voloshinov, V.N. (1973) Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wodak, Ruth (1996) Disorders of Discourse. London: Longman.

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