Language and Discourse Seminar Series

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Who this event is for

  • Everyone


202, JHBB, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


Who, what and where is the critical discourse analyst? with speaker Juliet Henderson, Oxford Brookes University

As we all now know, it is the complex configurations of power/knowledge that produce critical discourse
analysis and its subjects. Subjects constituted by the constantly shifting, fragmented, multiple dynamics
internal to the regimes of governmentality in which they are located, and to which there is no outside
(Foucault 2008). Foucault’s notion of the self collapses dualistic understandings of an objective subject exterior
to cognitive, interior processes of reasoning which can be transferred into the neutral medium of reasoned
argument into ever productive techniques of power. Rather, there is no subject or individual “ontologically
prior to power” (Ball & Olmedo 2012:87) since we are all caught up in contingencies of the shifting,
fragmented historical present in which we are both “a constant beginning and… a constant end” (Ball &
Olmedo 2012:87).

As such never-completely- achieved subjects, we write, and reinvent the disciplines and institutions that
precede us, and without whose power relations there would be no subjects to glimpse in their fleeting
moments of knowing in the historical present. Yet, despite this knowledge of our nature as subjects of
discourse, CDA approaches to textual analysis broadly assume the givenness of the discourses and ideologies
expressed in language and map it on to a real world ‘out there’ (St Pierre 2013:651) whose workings as
normalising regimes of truth it presupposes can be brought to light through empirical analysis.

Such an ontology which “maintains a representational logic” (St Pierre 2013:651) tends by default to insert the
centred humanist subject in the position of ‘researcher’, and at ‘a “panoptic remove from their [object] of
criticism” (Radhakrishnan 1996:33), thus leaving the work of critical interrogation of representation
incomplete. In this paper, Henderson refers to Foucault and other ‘posts’ to locate the critical discourse
analyst in his/her/their place in the “immanence of doing” (Lather 2013:635).