Critical Discourse Analysis

Unlike the approach to DA originally advocated by Potter and Wetherell (1987) that is primarily located at the micro-level of everyday social interaction, CDA emphasizes how discursive practices or ways of talking about the world are predominantly shaped by influences outside of the immediate interactional context of speakers. Specifically, these influences are the historical, political and cultural contexts within which speakers live their lives. Critical discursive psychologists have argued that certain ways of talking or constructing objects and events become pervasive and dominant in particular historical moments, which make them more culturally available and thus more powerful in constructing social reality. Critical DP looks outside specific discursive interactions and reflects upon the social and historical context within which both everyday conversation and formal institutional discourse take place. What does this socio-political context say about power relations between groups and how do various institutions within the wider society propagate and reproduce particular constructions that come to dominate our subjective experience and our very individual and social identities (Edley, 2001; Henriques et al., 1998; Wetherell, 1998, 2001)?

As already noted, CDA draws heavily on post-structuralist theory and particularly, Foucault’s writings on discourse, but again, there is no unified approach to this tradition. While major exponents such as Wetherell (1998, 2001) adopt this critical framework, her work is largely empirical and still shares important similarities with more conversation-analytic inspired discursive work. In contrast, Ian Parker (1990, 2012) eschews empiricism, is less interested in everyday talk and conversation and more concerned with identifying and describing hegemonic ‘discourses’ which proliferate within society and which inform, shape and construct the way we see ourselves and the world.

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