Qualitative Data Analysis II: Discourse and narrative analysis Week 15 Social Research Methods
Lecture Outline • Introduction • Discourse analysis, the theoretical background • Focus: discourse analysis associated with post-structuralist theory and cultural studies • Doing discourse analysis • Issues/starting points • Data collection • Tools of analysis • Narrative analysis • Seminar Preparation
Introduction • Focus on forms of qualitative analysis that are associated with post-structuralism and the ‘linguistic turn’: • discourse analysis and narrative analysis • Both approaches can be used to analyse a wide range of qualitative research ‘data’ – interviews but also media. • Still relates to the ‘common activity’ in qualitative analysis of looking for themes, etc., but more specific in method/approach to analysis. • Specific assumptions about the significance of language and text • Meaning resides in networks of relations between words, ideas, concepts, language forms.
Discourse analysis ‘Discourse analysts are interested in texts in their own right, rather than seeing them as a means of ‘getting at’ some reality which is deemed to lie behind the discourse - whether social or psychological or material. This focus clearly marks discourse analysts out from some other social scientists - whose concern with language is generally limited to finding out ‘what really happened’ or what an individual’s attitude to x, y or z really is. Instead of seeing discourse as a pathway to some other reality, discourse analysts are interested in the content and organization of texts.’ (Gill, 2000)
Features of discourse analysis Language is constructive – departure from ‘realist’ theorists ‘Discourse’ includes both spoken and written language There are many ways to tell a story - any particular description will depend upon the perspective of the speaker or writer Language is not viewed as a mere epiphenomenon, but as a practice in its own right. People use discourse to do things - to offer blame, to make excuses, to present themselves in a positive light, etc.’ (Gill, 2000) Discourse analysis treats talk and texts as organized rhetorically (Billig, 1987; 1991). It refers to larger units of organisation than the sentence – narratives, stories and conversational exchanges Discourse is a matter of language usage, with a particular interest in the multiple ways power operates.
‘If you read an article or book the usual goal is to produce a simple, unitary summary, and to ignore the nuance, contradictions and areas of vagueness. However, the discourse analyst is concerned with the detail of passages of discourse, however fragmented and contradictory, and with what is actually said or written, not some general idea that seems to be intended.’ (Potter & Wetherell, 1987: 168).
The heritage of discourse • Positivist/empiricist • discourses are best viewed as ‘frames’ or ‘cognitive schemata’, ‘the conscious strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings’ • Structuralist linguistics (Saussure) • Difference between statement/text and language/grammar/rules of formation of text • Speech act philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin) • Words do not simply represent the world, they constitute that world See Howarth (2000) ‘Introduction’ in Discourse (Available on course extracts)
Different theoretical concepts of discourse 1. Norman Fairclough’sschool of ‘critical discourse analysis’ • combines works of Gramsci, Bakhtin, Althusser, Foucault, Giddens and Habermas. • discourses are viewed as ideological systems of meanings that obfuscate and naturalize uneven distributions of power and resources • discourse analysis exposes mechanisms by which this deception operations and proposes emancipatory alternatives • Gramsci: hegemony, contestation, co-option • Althusser: ideological state apparatus, interpellation (representations call subjects into being) • BUT human meaning and understanding matters too • uses Giddens’ theory of structuration, the theme of the ‘duality of social structure and human agency’ • discourse analysis examines the dialectical relationship between structure and agency to expose the ways in which discourse is used by the powerful to deceive and oppress the dominated • But have an open understanding of who counts as ‘powerful’
Different theoretical concepts of discourse 2. Post-structuralistsand Cultural Studies/ post-Marxists (the focus of this week’s lecture) • Derrida, Foucault, Laclau and Mouffe, Butler; Birmingham School of Cultural Studies: Hall, Gilroy, McRobbie... • More comprehensive concepts of discourse than hermeneutical emphasis on social meaning (e.g. Fairclough) or realist/Marxist approaches • Regard social structures as inherently ambiguous, incomplete and contingent systems of meanings • Placing power relations at the centre of analysis
Foucault and disciplinary power/knowledge: historical discourses • Truths (including scientific, objective truths) are historically constructed – ‘regimes of truth’; power/knowledge; discourse • Discourses • Are the outcome of power struggles • Produce subjects • Normalise (discipline) or regularise subjects • Normalising discourse • People studying, describing and classifying ‘abnormal’ practices and ‘dangerous’ individuals; the disciplinary gaze; normalising power • E.g. Classification and discipline of sexual behaviours in 19th C
What does discourse analysis involve? • Researching the systems of representation, articulation and meaning that constitute the social world • Study of shared sites of representation/statements • Public documents, texts, media outputs, films, books, legal proceedings, medical guidance, self-help books, speech. • Study of the rule of formation of representation; the language that make statements possible; the grammar; the underlying assumptions: DISCOURSE Discourses are general rules, statements take place within discourses. Look at numerous statements to find out about the underlying discourse.
Discourse and the making of social life • Discourse is not simply a means of expression • But, the conditions of our thinking, speaking, seeing selves; making actions possible • ‘A discourse constitutes ways of acting in the world, as well as a description of it. It both opens up and closes down possibilities for action for ourselves’. • Levitas (2005, p3) The Inclusive Society
Discourse and the making of social life There is no ‘I’ outside of discourse, which gives intelligibility to that term. Butler (1990) Gender Trouble
E.g. ‘The Other’ – what the (fantasised) self is not • Romanticising, denigrating, pacifying visions • E.g. the orient contra the occident (Said Orientalism)
Doing discourse analysis (post-structuralist version) • Discourse analysis is always addressed to power relations • Deconstruction or revealing underlying assumptions/discourse - making discursive power visible • Thereby weaken the emotional grip of discursive power • Enable and encourage people to question taken for granted assumptions and to take responsibility for their judgments and classification practices • Fostering reflexivity and critique
Doing discourse analysis (practical steps) • The Starting Point: an issue • Data collection: gathering statements/texts/documents • Analysis: interpretation and critique
Doing discourse analysis 1) The starting point: an issue • Either a power relationship that you want to explore and deconstruct in a discursive context • E.g. How is class power perpetuated in the UK media? Does international development discourse participate in Islamaphobia? • Or a discursive event that you want to interrogate; you’ve identified a new or transformed discourse and you want to ask - what are the implications of this discourse for power relations? • E.g. A critical interrogation of the ‘addiction to spending’ discourse on the current financial crisis, or the ‘benefit scroungers’ discourse
Doing discourse analysis 2) Data collection • Gathering ‘statements’, texts, images, films, symbols • E.g. Collecting newspaper articles on a given topic (such as austerity and recession) or mentioning a given group of people (such as ‘unemployed’ people) • Set parameters for data collection – e.g. select two newspapers to look at over a specific time period; use ‘key terms’, ‘themes’ or ‘tropes’ to select relevant material • AND developing your own powers of interpretation and critique • Read around the topic, find different perspectives on the topic (things written at different times, things voicing different perspectives) • Improving your ability to think differently about the issue and to ‘see beyond’ and identify the normal(ising) assumptions
Doing discourse analysis 3) Analysis: interpretation and critique • Identifying implicit assumptions; describing and challenging the power relations, hierarchies, and (mis)representations implied by those assumptions; identifying the discourse Classification practices • Generalisation e.g. ‘Chav’; Muslim • Hierarchical/judgmental terms e.g. ‘unemployed’ Articulation • Terms articulated to other terms, drawing problematic parallels e.g. poor=child Othering • Denigrating characterisation of particular groups as opposite of an idealised image of ‘the self’/dominant culture Normalisation • Describing ‘types’ of people as abnormal, dangerous, threatening
e.g. the promises of universities • University prospectus participates in the discursive construction of the ideal student AND makes promises to prospective students. • Classifications: top, leader, ‘each one of them’. A ‘nerve centre’, creative, exciting. • Articulations: don’t wait, don’t just. Progressive, proactive, business. • Othering: the pack. • Normalisation: the business leader. Global, local and university brands.
Narrative analysis • Narrative analysis is primarily concerned with ‘the ways in which people make and use stories to interpret the world, and their place within in’ (Lawler, 2002, ‘Narrative in Social Research’, p. 242). • Narrative analysis focuses on the ways that speakers deploy story-telling devices, including plot-lines, points of transformation, action, characters, and a point or a message.
Narrative analysis Pays attention to social construction: understands the ‘author’ of a story of building an account of the world – not reflecting a pre-given truth. E.g. Riessman (2008) involves exploring how the story is told, and to whom, rather than focusing on the truth of the account. How the story is produced in a particular form reveals something of what matters to the storyteller. E.g. ‘you’ll never guess what’ versus ‘just my luck’ Suits some textual analysis (e.g. Some websites – blogs, reviews) and some modes of interviewing (and may require questions to be asked in a way that encourages storytelling).
Key assumptions of narrative analysis* • Stories are an important means through which we communicate with one another and with ourselves • Data is dynamic and messy; meaning is contextual and constructed • Importance of temporal framing
Assumption 1: Orienting towards stories You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You're a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. ...And by the way, you know, when you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener! Neal (Steven Martin) and Del ( John Candy) in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’
Starting point is that there is something intrinsically useful/interesting about stories • Stories may be told in interviews spontaneously or elicited. But sometimes when we ask, they don’t tell. • Stories DO something; they have a purpose • Stories are almost always subjectively true • Stories are always in relation to other stories • Micro/macro narratives • Counter-narratives
Assumption 2:Dynamic and messy nature of data • Meanings change over time. Data cannot be captured in pure form, even on transcripts, as the same words mean something different across time and place • Subjective truth is important • Meaning is contextual and constructed/ negotiated
Assumption 3: The importance of temporal framing • Where does the story begin and end? • What does this temporal framing bring into focus? What does it obscure? Who is included? Who is absent? • When is the story being told in relation to when it happened? Is the comparison of the temporal perspective explicit? Implied? (e.g. the self I once was, the self I could have been, the self I dream of becoming?)
Example: being a bastard ‘The trouble is that, when the heat is on and you need support, Geoff will never be there. You’ll get the sympathetic look, perhaps the comment that he has always found a particular investment rule very tough, and you think: “You bastard, you wrote that rule, you’re the boss here, you could have helped and you didn’t.”’ (‘Adrian’, in Sims, 2005, ‘You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations’. Organization Studies, 2005: 26.
Indignation and ‘being a bastard’ • Interviewees like Adrian struggled to make sense of the behaviour of people like Geoff. • They could express indignation • Some tried to understand others’ behaviourbefore judging them, others rush to judgement. All still “experience a visceral reaction of indignation to some of their colleagues.” • We tell stories of people as ‘bastards’ when we’ve run out of other ways of accounting for them. Demonizing like this is a relief but also makes us feel guilty.
Conclusion • Both discourse analysis and narrative analysis share an interest in ways that language is used by speakers and writers in their constructions of particular worldviews. • There are a number of different ways of doing discourse and narrative analysis, depending on methodological, theoretical, and disciplinary starting points
Seminar Preparation • Thinking and planning • In the seminar you will be doing discourse analysis • Be prepared to suggest a topic/issue to analyse • Bring a laptop so that you can search for materials OR a pile of newspapers/magazines
In-depth discourse analysis readings: see recommended readings (CE) • Howarth Reading (available on course extracts) • A brief history of discourse analysis and a defence of post-structuralist discourse theory. Useful background explaining that the term is used in lots of different ways. Skim read and keep for future reference. • Hall Reading (available on course extracts) • Example of politically engaged discourse analysis discussing racism in the media and an anti-racist TV programme. Written in early 1980s but there are many parallels with the current political moment • Read in detail for a fine example of interpretation and critique and for distinction between the intentions behind statements and discursive power