On the Interpretive Work of Reconstructing Discourses and Their Local Contexts
Keywords:sociology of knowledge approach to discourse, sociology of the local, interpretive methodology, higher education, transformation, race, racism, culture, focus groups, secondary data analysis, ethnographic semantics, university, South Africa
Many strands of discourse analysis conceive discourses as relatively large structural connections. They are thus able to comprehend seemingly scattered phenomena as articulations of macro-level structures. Their focus on the macro-level of analysis, however, comes often at the neglect of the local contexts in which discourses are reproduced and employed. Action and interpretation are not only instructed by discourses, but also by local systems of relevance of resilient groups, communities or organizations.
In this article, we develop interpretive strategies to distinguish between discourses and their reproductive local context. Based on a case study that analyzes students' narrations about their experiences of the transformation process at a higher education institution in South Africa, we reconstruct the "ethnographic context" of these narrations. We demonstrate how the use of a specific discourse—thematically linked to "race" and "culture"—is shaped by local groups, in our case by student residences at this higher education institution. We frame our case in social-constructivist terms and pursue a sociology of knowledge approach to discourse.
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Copyright (c) 2013 Florian Elliker, Jan K. Coetzee, P. Conrad Kotze
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