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Byrd Clark 2009 p. 64: examining discourse is as:

1. text pointing to the linguistic features and its organization;
2. discursive practice where discourses are produced, distributed, and
consumed within society; and
3. social practice that points to the ideological effects and hegemonic
processes in which discourse occurs.
ritzer2010concise p. 151: The primary definition of discourse denotes
a method of communication that conforms to particular structural and
ethnographic norms and marks a particular social group by providing a
means of solidarity for its members and a means of differentiating that
group from other groups.
Gees (1996) distinction between
1. Discourses
practices, including language
and 2. discourse (a connected series of utterances or written words) to
interpret the authors conceptual orientation toward the former,
broader understanding of discursive identity construction.
Discourse as point of view? (me = ideologies? how we
frame/position things, and are ourselves positioned?)
The role of discourse is hard to ignore in our daily intellectual pursuits,
for it provides a basis to conduct a comparative analysis and frame our
perceptions about different things. For instance, two competing
discourses about the civil war in Syria today can be used thereby either
qualifying the war as war against dictatorship or war against
imperialism. On the other hand, it could war against Islam or war
for humanity. Thus, both discourses provide a distinct style,
vocabulary and presentation which are required to convey the
respective ideas to a specific audience.
According to Jacques Lucan and Ferdinand de Saussure, language
(Discourse) is the main force which works behind all kinds of human
activities and changes in social fabric, whereas the Modernists
attribute discourse to development and progress. Another important
function of discourse is to generate and preserve truth as argued by
the Postmodernist theories.

Fu2013fragmented: Influenced by Foucaults pioneering works,

anthropologists now use the term discourse, with its implicit
connotations of power asymmetry and possible contestation,
to accentuate the malleable nature of language use and the
key role it plays in the social construction of reality. This
linguistic turn is often referred to as symbolic or semantic
anthropology or discourse analysis (Parkin 1982, 1984; Bourdieu 1991),
which sets a premium on a constructionist, processual view of society.
On the one hand, the metaphorical play and performance of language
in the construction of Discourses among the ruling elite and the
intelligentsia impinges importantly on the discourses and practices
among the general populace. On the other hand, however, the fact
that discursive symbols are malleable for meaning interpretation is
bound to create multiplicity, equivocality, contradiction, and
complexity in the realization of different agential possibilities, thereby
constantly challenging and changing the hegemony of Discourses. This
intricate and dynamic interplay takes place at levels both above and
below; while the interaction between different powerful interest groups
tends to generate fragmentations and conflicts, ordinary people in
everyday life do not simply accept imposed values and beliefs
without demur. Hence, the anthropology of discourse analysis looks
at the process of Discourses: the manner in which they are being
constructed, contested, mediated, fragmented, ignored, or
accepted. In particular, it brings to the fore power asymmetry
inherent in the discursive process by revealing the realities
and people behind Discourses.
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
Ed. William A. Darity, Jr.. Vol. 2. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference
USA, 2008. p387-388. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

Since the later 1960s, however, the analysis of discourse has ceased to
be the province of linguists and linguistic anthropologists alone. It has
instead emerged as one of the leading preoccupations of social
thought, and of cultural studies more broadly (see Howarth 2000; Mills
2004). That it has done so is closely related to the increasing
contemporary saliency of two other topics that are often regarded as
hallmarks of the post-structuralist turn in social and cultural critique.
One of these centers on the variable historicity of the many collective
systems in which human beings take part, or of which they are a part

(Attridge, Bennington, and Young 1987). The other centers on the

ways in which, and the extent to which, such systems are
implicated in the reproduction of economic and political
domination. Well before the post-structuralist turn, however,
the Marxist political theorist Antonio Gramsci (18911937) set
an influential, if partial, precedent in conceiving of the
trajectory of the dynamics of language, history, and power as
unfolding in the contest between the prevailing or
hegemonic ideologies of a ruling class and the
counterhegemonic ideologies of the class destined to succeed
them. Several decades later, the structuralist Marxist Louis
Althusser (19181990) supplemented Gramscis schema with
the still-current postulate that bourgeois ideology is, at base, a
discursive apparatus through which persons of authority
interpellate and, in so doing, subject other persons to
authority (Althusser 1971, p. 170178).
At once post-structuralist and post-Marxist, Michel Foucaults (1926
1984) oeuvre is the source of the conception of discourse most
widespread today. For Foucault, discourse is always contestable,
always tactically polyvalent, though by no means is it always the
tactical weapon of one or another economically defined class.
Discourse bears authority by definition. Its domain is not equivalent to
that of opinion in general. Nor does its authority necessarily rest on the
hegemony of the material interests that it may serve. The proper
measure of discursive authority is, for Foucault, the always somewhat
conventional measure of what constitutes knowledge. Knowledge is
not, per se, a kind of power. Discourse approached without reference to
the material practices it serves and informs can yield no more than a
purely speculative analysis of domination. Just so, Foucaults research
into the establishment of the mental asylum, the prison, and sexology
reveals that those discourses of life, labor, and language that, since the
early nineteenth century, have been recognized as human sciences
have provided the rationale for the imposition of entirely material
apparatuses of anthropological classification, compartmentalization,
and confinement. Yet Foucaults diagnosis of such discourses of

subjectivation affords no hope of radical liberation (Foucault 1998,

pp. 459460). As Althusser seems also to have believed, human beings
have nothing else to be but discursively articulated and discursively
interpellated subjects. They might still strive to render the terms of
their subjectivation more accommodating and less absolute.
Page 388 | Top of Article
SEE ALSO Althusser, Louis ; Foucault, Michel
Althusser, Louis. 1971. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans.
Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books.
Attridge, Derek, Geoff Bennington, and Robert Young, eds. 1987. Poststructuralism and the Question of History. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Austin, John L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1965. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity
in the Age of Reason. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Pantheon.
Foucault, Michel. 1970. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the
Human Sciences. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock.
Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A. M.
Sheridan Smith. London: Tavistock.
Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon.
Foucault, Michel. 1978. An Introduction. Vol. 1 of The History of
Sexuality. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon.
Foucault, Michel. 1985. The Use of Pleasure. Vol. 2 of The History of
Sexuality. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon.

Foucault, Michel. 1998. Foucalt. In Essential Works of Michel Foucault,

Volume 2: Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, pp. 45963. New
York: The New Press.
Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press.
Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of
Antonio Gramsci. Ed., trans. Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith.
New York: International Publishers. (Orig. pub. 19291935).
Gumperz, John J., and Dell Hymes, eds. 1986. Directions in
Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication. New York:
Howarth, David. 2000. Discourse. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Lucy, John A., ed. 1993. Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and
Metapragmatics. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Mills, Sara. 1997. Discourse. London: Routledge.
Romaine, Suzanne. 2000. Language in Society: An Introduction to
Sociolinguistics, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sammons, Kay, and Joel Sherzer, eds. 2000. Translating Native Latin
American Verbal Art: Ethnopoetics and the Ethnography of Speaking.
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press.
Saville-Troike, Muriel. 1982. The Ethnography of Communication: An
Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Trudgill, Peter. 1974. Sociolinguistics: An Introduction. Harmondsworth,
U.K.: Penguin.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by
G. E. M. Anscombe. London: Basil Blackwell and Mott.

James D. Faubion
Source Citation (MLA 8th Edition)
"Discourse." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited
by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA,
2008, pp. 387-388. Gale Virtual Reference
Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3045300607