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[ecrea] Applying Discourse Theory: Politics, Ideology, Populism - Course at the Essex Summer School

Wed Mar 07 17:22:17 GMT 2018

Applying Discourse Theory: Politics, Ideology, Populism - Course at the Essex Summer School
University of Essex, UK

Course Instructors
Jason Glynos (University of Essex)
Yannis Stavrakakis (Aristotle University)

Course Outline
A central claim of discourse theory is that meaning, subjectivity, and agency are constructed within relational structures that are shaped and re-shaped through political struggle. This course introduces the basic concepts of poststructuralist discourse theory, understood as a distinctive, qualitative approach to critical empirical research. The course situates this approach in relation to competing approaches to social and political analysis that take discourse and meaning seriously, and contextualises it also in relation to key debates in the philosophy of natural and social science. The main aim of the course, however, is to address the challenging question of ‘applying’ discourse theory to empirical phenomena in the name of understanding, explanation, and critique. Drawing inspiration from poststructuralism and psychoanalysis, it serves as a forum to discuss research strategies that are consonant with the field of discourse theory, and outlines conceptual frameworks that can be employed in the analysis of concrete discourses and practices. A range of concepts and themes are examined with particular reference to the work of thinkers such as Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, and Slavoj Žižek. Such concepts and themes are considered from the point of view of methodology and research strategy, and include discourse and practice, hegemony and antagonism, politics and dislocation, performativity and subjectivity, fantasy and ideology, democracy and populism. It uses empirical cases to illustrate broad methodological and theoretical points, from general considerations regarding qualitative methods appropriate to poststructuralist discourse theory, to more focused considerations of rhetorical, ethnographic, participatory, and psycho-social dimensions of research, including the place and role of the analyst in the process of research. The illustrations draw on organizational and media practices, policy discourses, populist movements, and more besides. As part of this course participants are invited to present and thematise their own research topics and proposals.

Discussion of Participant’s Research Projects
Participants are encouraged to submit a short 1,500 word outlines of their own research interests and projects, and the sorts of challenges being faced, methodological or otherwise. These outlines should be emailed to both the course instructors Jason Glynos ((ljglyn /at/ and Yannis Stavrakakis ((yanstavr /at/ at least one week before the start of the course, so that they can be built into the programme. Time is allocated at the end of each week for collective discussion of participant research topics and proposals.

Course Aims and Objectives
Participants will become familiar with the basic assumptions, concepts and logics of poststructuralist discourse theory, exploring their implications for conducting social and political analysis and analyzing policy discourses. At the end of the course, participants will: • be conversant with major literatures and debates in the field of discourse analysis; • have acquired a solid grounding in poststructuralist discourse theory and its application to social and political analysis and critique; • be well-grounded in theoretical and methodological issues arising in this field; • be familiar with key dimensions of critical empirical research relevant to the design of a research strategy in this field; • finish with a keen sense of the critical role that discourse plays both in theory and in social and political practice.

Course Overview

To Apply

Application Deadline
1 May 2018

General Information about Essex Summer School

Melanie Sawers (Administrative Director): (mels /at/

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