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Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2003 12:24:50 +0200 From: Mekki Elbadri Subject: Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity
Weiss, Gilbert and Ruth Wodak, eds. (2002) Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity, Palgrave Macmillan.
Mekki Elbadri, Vienna, Austria
This book is a collection of articles edited by Gilbert Weiss and Ruth Wodak. It is principally the result of a conference held in Vienna in July 2000. According to the editors, contributors were requested to revise their papers and reflect their positions, in order to answer some of the unresolved questions during the conference. Several other scholars in the field were also invited 'to discuss the central notions of "inter/trans/multidisciplinarity" in the Social Sciences ... as well' (p. vii). The book is divided into three parts and consists of 14 chapters including the introduction. Part I (Critical vs. Critical vs. Critical), consists of three chapters (2-4); Part II, 'Debating and Practising Interdisciplinarity', consists of 6 chapters (5-10); and Part III, 'From Theory to Social and Political Practice', consists of 4 chapters (11-14).
The editors wrote the Chapter I, 'Introduction: Theory, Interdisciplinarity and Critical Discourse Analysis'. This is mainly a reflection on the foundations, characteristics and prospects of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). The authors state at the very beginning that the 'aim of the volume is to critically examine the foundation and basic elements of discourse-analytical research as it has been developing for roughly two decades' (p. 1). They present an outline of the main concepts dealt with in the book, i.e. theory, discourse, ideology, power, interdisciplinarity, context, etc. These questions are discussed with an overview of the historical, scholarly and academic development of the major concepts since the antiquity until modern times. The last part of this chapter is a brief description of the volume's structure and a brief summary of the content of each chapter.
In Chapter 2, 'Critical Discourse Analysis and Rhetoric of Critique', Michael Billig acknowledges the academic success of Critical Discourse Analysis. He traces the historical development of the term as well as the history of academic critical research in general. However, he poses the question of whether CDA is not becoming a victim of its success. He sees this danger in the establishment of CDA as a full-fledged discipline competing in the academic 'marketplace', together with the 'brand name' abbreviation: CDA. He wonders whether the discipline is not developing into the same power relations and institutional settings that it criticizes. He calls for a return from this direction in order to continue the revolutionary, critical, self-reflexive 'lower case' approach and to avoid compromising the critical enterprise.
In Chapter 3, 'Critical Discourse Analysis and the Development of the New Science', Carlos A. M. Gouveia outlines the crisis of modern science paradigm marked by the Cartesian, mechanistic and reductionist methodology, which is constructed in opposition to common sense in understanding reality. The author considers the theory and methodology of CDA as examples of tentative responses to key factors in this general crisis. He points out the emergence of a new science represented by Einstein's theory that revolutionized the conceptions of space and time, followed by other theories in physics, and particularly the concept of complex self-organizing systems. These approaches maintain that 'when an object, a system, is dissected either physically or theoretically into isolated elements, its systemic properties are destroyed' (p.52). He predicts a second epistemological break of modern science characterized by bringing together scientific knowledge and common sense, adopting transdisciplinarity and refusing the reduction of reality to an arbitrary simplification beyond which other aspects of reality are dismissed, and producing an emancipatory knowledge. He thinks that CDA is theoretically well-placed and methodologically equipped to lead this second epistemological break of the New Science.
In Chapter 4, Marianne W. Jorgensen discusses 'Reflexivity and the Doubles of Modern Man: The Discursive Construction of Anthropological Subject Positions'. She starts by confirming that scientific knowledge is situated. She states that 'knowledge is not just a passive reflection on an object 'out there', but also a projection of forces working from 'within' the author, the academy or Western culture at large' (p. 63). She suggests that a discourse analytical approach can give new input to the investigation of scientific subject positions, though more by reformulating the question, than by providing an answer.
Taking as a starting point Michel Foucault's diagnosis of 'modern man, she argues that an interdisciplinary approach to the question of reflexivity provides a common denominator for the discussion of knowledge in a number of disciplines, making possible the analysis of a range of contributions as solutions to the same problem concerning the status of knowledge. She then turns to the discipline of anthropology, putting the developed tools at work in a closer analysis of one example, namely Talal Asad's article on the concept of cultural translation in British social anthropology. She introduces Asad's criticism of the cultural translation conception of ethnographic task as adopted by British anthropologist. She, then, criticizes Asad's alternative approach using concepts proposed by Foucault and Asad himself.
In Chapter 5, 'The Discourse-Knowledge Interface', Teun A. van Dijk discusses discourse and knowledge as multidisciplinary phenomena. He maintains that many contemporary directions in pragmatics and discourse studies show that knowledge is not only mental, but also social, with an important cultural dimension, and, hence, needs an anthropological or ethnographic account. He points out that 'similar remarks may be made of the notion of discourse, which also has philosophical, linguistic, cognitive, social and cultural dimensions -- and of course historical ones' (p. 87). He maintains that in order to study power and its abuse, it is crucial to understand how exactly powerful groups and institutions manage and express their knowledge in public discourse. A critical approach to knowledge is characterized by questions such as 'which groups or institutions have preferential access to various kinds of knowledge, which groups or institutions set the criteria for the very definition or legitimization of knowledge, and which are specially involved in the distribution of knowledge -- or precisely in the limitation of knowledge in society' (p. 88). He thinks that a sociocognitive interface, rather than an individual approach, is needed for studying knowledge. After classifying knowledge in categories according to this model, he sets on anlysing a New York Times' editorial entitled 'Setback on Medical Marijuana' showing how knowledge, cognition and discourse are interrelated.
In Chapter 6, 'Critical Discourse Analysis and Evaluative Meaning: Interdisciplinarity as a Critical Turn', Phil Graham looks at the pre- disciplinary and post-disciplinary periods in the development of modern disciplines. He examines the use of evaluative resources for proposals and propositions justifying the birth of each new discipline. He uses editorial introductions to first issues of journals in newly emerging disciplines in order to focus on the intertextual discourse of their separation from their 'parent fields'. Taking examples from the disciplines of economics, political science, psychology and ethics, he illustrates how each new social science attempted to grasp the whole human experience as its domain of authority armed with a number of evaluative resources. These same resources are deployed in contemporary discourse of power. As an example of what he calls 'Latterday Princes', the author analyses a speech by Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States, demonstrating the use of evaluative resources derived from diverse, and some times conflicting, disciplines. He concludes by affirming that no 'critical social science can function from within any of the isolated bunkers created by disciplinarity' (p. 126). He maintains that a genuine CDA is merely a beginning for any future critical social science, not an end.
In Chapter 7, 'Texts and Discourses in Technologies of Social Organization', Jay L. Lemke tries to identify emerging forms of social control in the era of globalization. He proposes to sketch a complex- systems model of semiotically mediated social ecosystems (ecosocial systems) and discuss the general role of texts and other semiotic- material artifacts in producing the coherence of such systems across time and space. He argues that complex systems are 'characterized by a hierarchical organization across multiple levels, each with its characteristic timescales and spatial-extensional scales' (131). These new systems have a number of distinct manifestations that the author calls 'transversals'. They include hypertexts, web-surfing, channel surfing, mall-cruising, transgenre and transinstitutional traversals. He calls for CDA to find ways of addressing this new mode of 'transversals' taking account of different time scales, social control and social power relations.
In Chapter 8, Marcelo Dascal discusses the question of 'Identities in Flux: Arabs and Jews in Israel'. At the onset, he states that he approaches this question from an abstract, philosophical viewpoint (i.e. conceptual analysis). He sees interdisciplinarity as an opportune approach for surmounting difficulties and awaking hopes. As an example he chooses to analyse the concept of identity. After a short etymological definition of the term 'identity', he presents two opposing conceptions thereof. A 'coherent', 'pure' and 'homogenous' identity, as opposed to a pluralistic, multiple and diversified identity. He gives a number of examples in support of the latter. He claims that if this conception was adopted, this would open new horizons for relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel, which would eventually lead to transcending the current conceptual and political deadlock.
In Chapter 9, 'Political and Somatic Alignment: Habitus, Ideology and Social Practice', Suzanne Scollon discusses theory and interdisciplinarity as an eclectic approach. She starts by tracing her scholarly itinerary leading to adopting and developing Mediated Discourse Analysis (MDA), together with Ron Scollon. She explains how MDA differs from CDA in its focus on action. Presenting an example of studying habitus as embodied ideology, she focuses on one basic social practice that reflects the different ideologies of two groups practicing 'taijiquan' in Kunming (China) and in Hong Kong. She shows how the two groups are separated ideologically and hence opted for distinctive practices. The simple practice of placing one's bag or other personal possessions is symbolic of one's membership in the group. This type of action has further ideological implications which are reflected in different training style, language choice and face relations (egalitarian vs. hierarchical). Changes in political climate accentuate differences in habitus. Members of the group choose certain somatic alignment practices to express their political alignments.
In Chapter 10 'Voicing the 'Other': Reading and Writing Indigenous Australians', Jim R. Martin draws on systemic functional linguistics and social semiotics (Multimodal Discourse Analysis) to analyse modernist and poststructuralist representations of Indigenous peoples in Australia. He reproduces extracts from a number of books written about Aboriginal Australians. These extracts depict different approaches reflecting their authors' ideological standpoints. Some use reported speech to speak on behalf of the peoples concerned, others quote them directly, giving them voice, while in a third example, a multimodal medium is used.
In Chapter 11, 'Activist Sociolinguistics in a Critical Discourse Analysis Perspective', Patricia E. O'Connor studies how people 'agentively present themselves in autobiographical discourses' and 'narratively constructing past selves and potentially new selves in society' (p. 224). Through analyzing prisoners stories of their experiences with drugs and crime, she suggests that elements of agentive discourse are clustered in sites of reflexive language, particularly in frame breaks and in meta-talk or evaluative references to one's knowledge state. Considering autobiographical recollection to be a useful source for capturing reflexivity, with therapeutic potential, she calls for the researcher's involvement in analysing the data and contributing for positive change in the life of speaker and of the community. She suggests a collaboration between CDA and participatory action research with the aim of removing 'the distancing of scholars from the subjects of research by forming 'reciprocal' zones of proximal development as researcher-learner' (p. 237).
In Chapter 12, 'Discourse at Work: When Women Take On the Role of Manager', Luisa Martin Rojo and Conception Gomez Esteban study the role of gender in organizations and try to place it within a broader consideration of power and authority. The authors adopt interdisciplinarity as an attitude for examining modern management models, gender-specific attitudes and stereotypes, and female managers attitudes towards these questions. They find that masculine practices and models continue to predominate organizations. They remark that women are in 'no-win' situations. On the one hand, behaviours identified as 'typically female' are disadvantageous for women, even when they are positively valued by new management models. On the other hand, the adoption of features traditionally associated with men by women managers is also considered negatively, because such features are associated with old models of management. They conclude that male centred conceptions of power and authority are dominant not only in everyday discourses, but also in academic research and training materials.
In Chapter 13, 'Cross-Cultural Representation of 'Otherness' in Media Discourse', Carmen Rosa Caldas-Clouthard studies the social, political and educational role of news. She examines the news recontextualization of events, key cultural themes related to the representation of otherness and criteria for news worthiness (news values). Focusing on 3 news values, which are: reference to elite nations, personalization and negativity, the author analyses news articles taken from the Bank of English Corpus, a case study of the British media treatment of a Brazilian immigrant in the United Kingdom and the Brazilian media counter-discourse. She shows that the Western media tend to reproduce, through text and image, a colonial discourse of denigration, reinforcing stereotypical developing countries, opposed to a positive civilized image of Western countries, through legitimating their own superiority, and emphasising the distance between 'us' and 'them'. The counter-discourse, for its part, endeavours to reflect a beautiful, attractive image of Brazil in a defensive approach that also parody elite nations.
In Chapter 14, 'Interaction between Visual and Verbal Communication: Changing Patterns in the Printed Media', Christine Anthonissen draws on multimodal grammar of visual design to demonstrate how the verbal and visual modes complement each other, rather than being fully identical or totally opposed. She remarks that 'a verbal text that pays lip service to media regulations, may be contradicted and corrected by a visually linked image' (p. 301). Examining newspapers under South Africa's apartheid censorship regulations and practices, she analyses visual design in news representation: typeface choices, layout and use of different semiotic modes, attempting to map their respective interrelations. She concludes that censorship provokes the use of semiotic modes other than language, in a way that the printed media find ways to defy censorship and to convey their message without resorting to, or in addition, to words.
'Theory' and 'interdisciplinarity' are the key themes of the book. It is clear that the volume was conceived and designed in a manner that lays down the theoretical foundations of CDA, illustrating its interdisciplinary orientation(s) and presenting corresponding applications of both themes; hence the division into three parts. The question of theory received the least treatment in the book. This reflects an ongoing problem of research in CDA (Meyer, 2001). It is not easy to discern a coherent theoretical thread linking the different approaches. However, this might be a sacrifice needed to accommodate the second theme: interdisciplinarity. Here, we come to a cherished approach in CDA (van Djik, 2001). The volume is a genuine example of 'inter/trans/multidisciplinarity' by virtue of questions discussed, disciplines visited/revisited and tools applied. However, the main question of 'critically examining the foundation and basic elements of discourse-analytical research' (p. 1) has not been sufficiently accounted for. With the exception of Billig's article, beside a few other brief remarks, the volume lacks critical, reflexive criticism of CDA's critical endeavour. This might be the result of the fact that all the authors are enthusiastic theoreticians/practitioners of CDA. A completely opposing viewpoint like Widdowson's (e.g. Widdowson, 2000), would have enriched the debate and helped shedding more light on other aspects of CDA from outside the circle of researchers in the field.
Meyer, M. (2001) 'Between theory, method, and politics: positioning of the approaches to CDA', in Wodak and Meyer (2001) (eds), pp. 14-31.
van Dijk, T. (2001) 'Multidisciplinary CDA, a plea for diversity', in Wodak and Meyer (2001) (eds), pp. 95-120.
Widdowson, H. G. (2000) 'On the Limitations of Linguistics Applied'. Applied Linguistics, 21/1: 3-25.
Wodak, R. and Meyer, M. (2001) (eds.) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage Publications.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher with interests in translation studies, terminology and discourse analysis, and is currently conducting a doctoral research in Critical Discourse Analysis.