Theoretical Perspective of the Book

This book is organized around a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the role of language and logical frameworks, that is, discourses, in simultaneously framing and reflecting reality. Most of the contributions to this book center around two contentions. First, they work on the assumption that language is power. In this conception, power both shapes and results from discursive understandings. These understandings have real-world, concrete implications. Second, they all assume, as Foucault has written, that society’s truths, or the terms with which we understand and construct the meaning of the world around us, are inherently entwined with power.

The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power . . . truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it includes regular effects of power. (Foucault, 1980, p. 133)

However, unlike many edited books on similar topics, this collection contains works from a variety of different theoretical traditions. Following the example of Zanoni (2010) we assert that there can be an advantage to conceiving of language and power from a variety of different viewpoints. As Zanoni writes,

[One sometimes] need[s] multiple lenses of analysis . . . since a poststructural philosophical orientation posits that an appeal to one grand narrative is no longer useful to legitimate scientific or conversational propositions (Lyotard, 1984). The insights of Gramsci, Foucault, and Bakhtin [can be] separately and interactively useful [for understanding educational discourse] . . . To do this we must examine power . . . An arc of neo-Marxist and post-structural theory interacts to offer positions for analysis. (p. 21)

Although individual authors included in this volume generally adhere to one of the three traditions outlined above, the editors believe that issues of language, discourse, truth, and power can best be explored by means of dialogue between theoretical positions. That is, we believe that the intersections of truth and power, their consequences in this world, and strategies for identifying, undermining, and reenvisioning them can best be accomplished by seeing them from multiple perspectives, using more than one theoretical lens.

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