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Keller, R.; Analysing Discourse. an Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge

Keller, R.; Analysing Discourse. an Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge

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Volume 6, No. 3, Art. 32 \u2013 September 2005
Analysing Discourse. An Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge
Reiner Keller
Abstract: The contribution outlines a research pro\u00ad
gramme which I have coined the "sociology of
knowledge approach to discourse" (Wissenssozio\u00ad
logische Diskursanalyse). This approach to dis\u00ad

course integrates important insights of FOU\u00ad CAULT's theory of discourse into the interpretative paradigm in the social sciences, especially the "German" approach of hermeneutic sociology of knowledge (Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie). Accordingly, in this approach discourses are con\u00ad sidered as "structured and structuring structures" which shape social practices of enunciation. Un\u00ad like some Foucauldian approaches, this form of discourse analysis recognises the importance of socially constituted actors in the social production and circulation of knowledge. Furthermore, it com\u00ad bines research questions related to the concept of "discourse" with the methodical toolbox of qual\u00ad itative social research. Going beyond questions of language in use, "the sociology of knowledge ap\u00ad proach to discourse" (Wissenssoziologische Dis\u00ad

kursanalyse) addresses sociological interests, the
analyses of social relations and politics of knowl\u00ad
edge as well as the discursive construction of real\u00ad

ity as an empirical ("material") process. For empiri\u00ad cal research on discourse the approach proposes the use of analytical concepts from the sociology of knowledge tradition, such as interpretative schemes or frames (Deutungsmuster), "classifica\u00ad tions", "phenomenal structure" (Ph\u00e4nomenstruktur), "narrative structure", "dispositif" etc., and the use of the methodological strategies of "grounded theory".

Key words: sociology of knowledge, discourse,

politics of knowledge, symbolic interactionism, frame, classification, narrative structure, grounded theory, Foucault, Berger, Luckmann

1. Discourse and the Sociology of Knowledge
2. The Research Programme of
Wissenssoziologische Diskursanalyse
3. Methods and Practice of Discourse
Research

4. Conclusion: Beginnings
References
Author
Citation

Since the impressive work of Michel FOUCAULT in the 1960s and 1970s, discourse research in the social sciences has been oscillating between the comprehensive theoretical interpre\u00ad tation of social macro-discourses (e.g. the Foucauldian tradition, work inspired by LACLAU and MOUFFE, Cultural and Postcolonial Studies) and the analysis of concrete "language in use" in the field of discourse analysis (including linguistic pragmatics and ethnomethodo\u00ad logically rooted conversation analysis). Recent attempts to build bridges between these rather heterogeneous paradigms have aimed to reduce problems localised on both sides, either in an "all too abstract macro analysis in discourse theory" not really fitted to reach the level of empirical research, or in an "all to micro perspective" on discourse unable to go beyond local micro-data analysis. Although I agree with this diagnosis, I suggest a different strategy for discourse research in order to bring the latter "down to earth" in empirical sociology: Rather than focusing on the analysis of "language in use", it is preferable\u2014and possible\u2014to translate some Foucauldian insights on discourse into sociological theory building. With this move, it is possible to elaborate a sociology of knowledge approach to discourse based on the social constructionist tradition of Peter L. BERGER and Thomas LUCKMANN, and to adopt and adapt interpretative or qualitative traditions of data analysis. As an analysis of knowledge production and circulation, this approach is closer to the original Foucauldian programme of analysing discourses as "practices of power/knowledge" and meaning production, than the established focus on "language in use" research. But going beyond FOUCAULT, such an approach introduces a more sociological conception of actors and practices in discourse theory and research. The empirical practice of discourse research can thus reclaim modifi\u00ad

\u00a9 2005 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/
Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (ISSN 1438-5627)
FQS 6(3), Art. 32, Reiner Keller: Analysing Discourse. An Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge

cations of qualitative data analysis in order to meet the necessities of discourse perspectives. In the following, I will first discuss the relation between discourse theory and sociology of knowledge. Then I present some basic assumptions of the sociology of knowledge regarding discourse. The third part of the article discusses some devices, methodological concepts and qualitative strategies for analysing "discourse data" (texts, visual data, ethnographic data) which draw on concepts such as the reconstruction of interpretative schemes or frames (Deutungsmuster), classifications, phenomenal structures, narrative structures, dispositifs, theoretical sampling or "coding". I argue that these concepts are well suited to provide a qualitative sociological perspective of discourse (see KELLER 2004, 2005). [1]

1. Discourse and the Sociology of Knowledge

At present, various notions of discourse are in circulation in the humanities. They can be grouped into six categories (see KELLER 2004): (1) In Germany, J\u00fcrgen HABERMAS contributed extensively to the dissemination of the term "discourse". But in the Habermasian tradition, discourse is hardly an object of inquiry, to be empirically analysed. Instead, it is regarded as an organised and ordered deliberative process to which a normative ethics of

discourse is applied. This use, which is current today primarily in the political sciences, has

created\u2014and still creates\u2014some confusion in German debates on discourse research. The traditional political science approach to discourse is mainly interested in the relationship be\u00ad tween arguments (ideas) and interests: in short, discourse matters if the better argument wins. However, this argumentative approach to discourse up to date rarely analyses the politics of knowledge. (2) Discourse analysis is a master frame for the micro-orientated analysis of language in use, which is based on pragmatic linguistics and conversation analysis. (3)

Corpus linguistics builds up enormous corpuses of text data around selected themes (such as

political issues) in order to look for statistical correlations. (4) Critical Discourse Analysis (Norman FAIRCLOUGH) and its German counterpart Kritische Diskursanalyse (Siegfried J\u00c4GER) are both based in linguistics, but with slightly different discourse-theoretical elab\u00ad orations; they direct discourse research to the ideological functions of language in use. (5)

Discourse theories\u2014like those of Michel FOUCAULT or Ernesto LACLAU and Chantal

MOUFFE\u2014are designed to analyse the social macro-levels of power/knowledge relationships or the articulation of collective identities. (6) Culturalist discourse research could be the label for a field of research derived from three different traditions: Symbolic Interactionism (i.e. the analysis of the construction of social problems in public discourses), the investigation of language use and symbolic power inspired by BOURDIEU, or the analysis of "circuits of representation/culture" in Cultural Studies. While approaches 2 and 3 are interested in ques\u00ad tions of micro/macro processes of language use, and 4 is directed towards ideology, ap\u00ad proaches 5 and 6 are closely related to questions of knowledge production, circulation and transformation, or in more general terms: they are related to questions of symbolic structuring of meaning and the generation of symbolic orders including their material groundings and ef\u00ad fects. The main difference between the two strands seems to be that the latter approach gives greater importance to social actors. [2]

Recent years have seen an increasing interest in discourse research in the social sciences as well (see KELLER 1997, 2004). Yet, current research still faces one major problem: How to enter the practice of discourse research? Once the theoretical grounds are prepared, building on FOUCAULT or the LACLAU/MOUFFE tradition, how to do, step by step, the concrete empirical research? Methodological devices offered by traditional discourse analysis\u2014the analysis of "talk and text in action" (Teun van DIJK)\u2014do not serve well to address the interests of social sciences (sociological) discourse research at more comprehensive or meso/macro levels. This constellation has given rise to attempts to bring together the best of both worlds of discourse research: theoretical groundings offered by discourse theory, and empirical concepts and strategies from the toolbox of discourse analysis (WETHERELL 1998; J\u00d8RGENSEN & PHILIPPS 2002). Nonetheless, as I suggest, this attempt to ground discourse research is not as new as it claims to be\u2014it has been present for more than fifteen years now in approaches such as the already mentioned "Critical Discourse Analysis" or "Kritische Diskursanalyse"

\u00a9 2005 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/
FQS 6(3), Art. 32, Reiner Keller: Analysing Discourse. An Approach From the Sociology of Knowledge
(FAIRCLOUGH 1995; J\u00c4GER 1999). Considering empirical research presented by both critical
approaches I currently see two main problems: [3]

The first problem is closely tied to the interest in ideological functions of language which all to often results in a rather reductionist "proof" of the presence of ideological notions and func\u00ad tions in a concrete set of spoken or written language (discourse). There is no place for any surprising results or insights to be derived from such empirical research, because the discourse theoristalways knows how ideology works in advance. [4]

The second problem is closer to the solution proposed for problems of discourse research mentioned above. The methodological devices which are offered by Critical Discourse Analy\u00ad sis and Kritische Diskursanalyse stem from linguistics and may be well suited for questions of linguistic research (including linguistic pragmatics and conversation analysis). But they are hardly suitable to grasp the larger dimensions of knowledge and knowledge/power which FOUCAULT was interested in.1 An approach to discourse informed by the sociology of knowl\u00ad edge promises to grasp these latter dimensions. [5]

Since the early days of the sociological classics in knowledge analysis\u2014such as Karl MARX, Emile DURKHEIM, Max WEBER, Max SCHELER, Karl MANNHEIM, Ludwig FLECK\u2014the sociology of knowledge has seen a rather heterogeneous development. Its latest impressive manifestations appeared in social studies of science and technology. In the following, I refer to the sociology of knowledge tradition mainly the seminal book on the "Social construction of reality" by Peter L. BERGER and Thomas LUCKMANN (1980), originally published in 1966 at the same time as FOUCAULT's "Order of things" (1974). BERGER and LUCKMANN pro\u00ad posed a synthesis of different strands of sociology of knowledge approaches ranging from MARX and DURKHEIM to the phenomenological approach of Alfred SCH\u00dcTZ. Inspired by arguments of pragmatism and symbolic interactionism (i.e. MEAD's theory of socialisation), they developed the theoretical groundings of a comprehensive sociological analysis of the social production and circulation of knowledge. This perspective ranges from processes of generating, objectifying and institutionalising knowledge as "objective reality" to the mech\u00ad anisms of the individual's more or less creative adoption of knowledge patterns taken from the collective "stock of knowledge" (SCH\u00dcTZ & LUCKMANN 1979).2 The concept of knowledge refers to everything which is supposed to "exist" (including ideas, theories, everyday as\u00ad sumptions, language, incorporated routines and practices). The "social construction of knowl\u00ad edge" is conceived as an ongoing activity, performance and process; it isnot the intentional outcome of any individual effort, but rather an effect of everyday action and interaction. The collective stocks of knowledge appear as institutions (like language itself), theories and other socio-cognitive devices, organisations, archives, texts and all kinds of materialities (e.g. practices, artefacts). Together, they constitute a historicalApriori for embedded individual actors. These actors' minds constitute the world not as transcendental subjects, but by using the knowledge devices at hand or, if routine (inter)action and interpretation is disturbed, by "creating" new ones in extended processes of social interaction. [6]

The BERGER/LUCKMANN tradition in Germany at present uses the label of "Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie" (hermeneutical sociology of knowledge) (HITZLER, REICHERTZ & SCHR\u00d6ER 1999) to mark its difference to other social science approaches to knowledge. Since it has always\u2014and lately more and more explicitly\u2014accorded great attention to the connection between language and knowledge, it has been presented recently by some of its proponents as the "communicative paradigm" in knowledge research (LUCKMANN 2002; KNOBLAUCH 1995). In taking up the foundational work of BERGER/LUCKMANN, including their tenet that everyday knowledge should be the central point of reference for sociological knowledge analysis, the Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie has unfortunately concentrated mostly on micro levels of knowledge analysis. It directed its interests to ethnographies of "small life worlds of modern man" (Benita LUCKMANN) or actors' interpretations of their

1 KELLER (2005) contains an extended discussion of discourse theories from FOUCAULT to Cultural Studies,
including LACLAU and MOUFFE.

2 See KELLER (2005) for a discussion of the sociology of knowledge tradition in relationship to discourse research; see KELLER, HIRSELAND, SCHNEIDER and VIEH\u00d6VER (2005 forthcoming) for current dialogues between discourse theories and the sociology of knowledge.

\u00a9 2005 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/

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