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Foucault: Discourse Theory

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Daria Krzysiak

on 16 May 2014

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Transcript of Foucault: Discourse Theory

Main ideas:

Abnormal vs. normal
Discourse comes from knowledge, and knowledge from discourse this results in power

Daria Krzysiak, UWr, Journalism and Social

Foucault: The Theory of Discourse
Michel Foucault (born 15 October 1926 - 25 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian, social theorist, philologist and literary critic.
In his works he emphasized the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a tool of social control.
Foucault is often cited as post - structuralist or postmodernist, however, he preferred to define his thought as a critical history of modernity.
"Knowledge is power"
The term discourse has several definitions. In the study of language, it often refers to the speech patterns and usage of language, dialects, and acceptable statements, within a community. It is a subject of study in peoples who live in secluded areas and share similar speech conventions
Sociologists and philosophers tend to use the term discourse to describe the conversations and the meaning behind them by a group of people who hold certain ideas in common.The definitions by Michel Foucault hold it to be the acceptable statements made by a certain type of discourse community. This explanation will primarily consider the definition pertaining to sociology.
Discursive forms
Knowledge and Power
Now know: knowledge is product of discourse
Knowledge arises when discourse has established credibility
then becomes
Foucault interested in the discursive formation that
holds discourse together
establishes truth
Discourse: based on ideas of Michel Foucault, discourse theory refers to the idea that the terms in which we speak, write and think about the world are a reflection of wider relations of power, and since they are also linked to practice, are themselves important in maintaining that power structure
To make it more clear, through practical examples, you will find out more about discourse theory and about the issues that researchers look for as they analyze political texts.
Human Sciences have created normal/abnormal discourse

"People use their language to do things: to order and request, persuade and accuse. This focus on language function is also one of the major components of discourse analysis. (Wetherell et al., 2001, p.198)"
Discourse “is that thing, that linguistic output, which is produced by human beings when they meet, chat, work, and communicate in everyday life” (Wetherell at el, p.82)
Knowledge in different subject areas accumulated throughout history, and changed during different historical periods
Encouraged people to think about the processes in society that affected them

Often localized rather than centralized
Example: the types of discourse used in professions such as medicine

Do YOU have any questions?
What is discourse for
- Plays a central role in the creation of knowledge
- Everything that can be spoken about in a particular discourse community is knowledge
- Discursive Formation: A cultural code, structure, network, or style of organization that governs the language, perception, values and practices of a certain historical period.
- Discourse provides an intellectual framework which gives rise to the knowledge or truths of a particular time
- Only one discursive formation can dominate at any one time

First: Rules the control what is allowed to be talked about and govern the appearance of objects of discourse (Ex: In the Victorian age, children’s sexuality was not an object of discourse)

- Second: Concerns who is allowed to speak and write (Ex: Lawyer); Criteria of competence and knowledge (Ex: Medical doctors); Rules defining speaker’s gestures, behaviors, etc. (Ex: judge wearing robes)

- Third: Concerns the form that concepts and theories must assume to be accepted as knowledge
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