Discourse Analysis

Martha Augoustinos

Discourse Analysis (DA) refers to the systematic study of discourse (both written text and talk) and its role in constructing social reality. DA is much more than a qualitative methodology: it is theoretically and epistemologically informed by social constructionism and has been central to challenging the dominance of cognitive and perceptual theoretical models in psychology. Although it is sometimes presented as a unified tradition in psychology, as this chapter will make clear, there are currently a diverse range of approaches to analysing discourse that differ markedly from each other. This chapter will consider this tradition of research, its intellectual influences, historical trajectory in psychology and the radical critique it has directed towards many of its taken-for-granted concepts. It will also outline some core principles in DA and demonstrate how they are examined in the analysis of discourse.

DA's Critical Roots

The emergence of critical perspectives in psychology can in part be attributed to the increasing interest in the role and function of language as a socially constitutive force in consciousness and experience. The turn to language in the social and human sciences in the 1990s has been associated with generating new and fundamentally different ways of doing psychology that can

M. Augoustinos (*)

University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia © The Author(s) 2017

B. Gough (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Social Psychology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-51018-1_11

be contrasted to the quantitative and experimental methods that have dominated the discipline. DA is one of these critical approaches. As a tradition of research, DA is fundamentally critical: first, it is critical of traditional psychology, its theories, models and practices, arguing that as a discipline, psychology has produced asocial, decontextualized and dehumanizing models of the person and second, by explicitly engaging with social and political issues, it is particularly critical of psychology’s role in the maintenance, reproduction and legitimation of oppressive relations and practices (Hepburn, 2003). As a tradition of research, DA represents one of these critical approaches, but as we will see, there are a number of approaches to analysing discourse that differ philosophically from each other.

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