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Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Essay

1) The approach is interdisciplinary. Problems in our societies are too complex to be studied from one perspective. This entails different dimensions of interdisciplinarity: theories draw on neighbouring disciplines and try to integrate other/new theories. Teamwork consists of different researchers from different traditionally defined disciplines working together. Lastly, also the methodologies are adapted to the data under investigation. 2) The approach is problem-oriented. Social problems are the items of research, such as “racism, identity, gender, social change”, which, of course, are and could be studied from manifold perspectives. The CDA dimension, discourse and text-analysis, is one of many possible approaches. 3) The theories as well as the methodologies are usually eclectic; i.e., theories and methods are integrated which are adequate in understanding and explaining the object under investigation.

4) Research in CDA should incorporate fieldwork and ethnography to explore the object under investigation (study from the inside) as a precondition for any further analysis and theorizing. This approach enables to avoid to `”fit the data to illustrate a theory”. Rather, we deal with bottom–up and top- down approaches at the same time. 5) The approach is abductive and retroductive: a constant movement back and forth between theory and empirical data is necessary. This is a pre requisite for principle 4. 6) Multiple genres and multiple public spaces should be studied, thus both intertextual and interdiscursive relationships. Recontextualization is the most important process in connecting genres as well as topics and arguments (topoi). 7) The historical context should be explicitly considered and integrated into the interpretation of discourses and texts. The notion of “change” (see principle 6) has become inherent to the study of text and discourse; the concept of “recontextualization” is relevant to the analysis of social change.

8) The categories and tools for the analysis are defined according to all these steps and procedures as well as to the specific problem under investigation. This entails some eclecticism, as well as pragmatism. Different approaches in CDA use different grammatical theories, although many apply Systemic Functional Linguistics in some way or other. 9) The problem-oriented approach entails the use and testing of middle-range theories. “Grand Theories” result in big gaps between structure/context and linguistic realizations (although some gaps must stay unbridgeable). 10) Practice and application are aimed at. The results should be made available to experts in different fields and, as a second step, be applied, with the goal of changing certain discursive and social practices.

Thus, CDA might be defined as fundamentally interested in analyzing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language. In other words, CDA aims to investigate critically social inequality as it is expressed, constituted, legitimized etc. by language use (or in discourse). Most critical discourse analysts would thus endorse Habermas’ claim that “language is also a medium of domination and social force. It serves to legitimize relations of organized power. Insofar as the legitimizations of power relations, …, are not articulated, …. , language is also ideological” (Habermas 1967, 259).

The notions of power, history and ideology

In contrast to other paradigms in discourse analysis and text-linguistics, CDA focuses not only on texts, spoken or written, as objects of inquiry. A fully “critical” account of discourse would thus require a theorization and description of both the social processes and structures, which give rise to the production of a text, and of the social structures and processes within which individuals or groups as social-historical subjects, create meanings in their interaction with texts (Fairclough & Kress, 1993, 2ff). Consequently, three concepts figure indispensably in all CDA: the concept of power; the concept of history; and the concept of ideology.

Power relations are a struggle over interests, which are exercised, reflected, maintained and resisted through a variety of modalities, extents and degrees of explicitness (we distinguish between overt and covert power relations, such as physical violence and explicit gate-keeping procedures versus latent networks, for example).

Ideologies are [cognitive] representations of practices formed from particular perspectives in the interest of maintaining unequal power relations and dominance. (Fairclough & Wodak 1997)

The Discourse-Historical Approach (Reisigl and Wodak 2001)
(Summary of some procedures of analysis):

The specific discourse-analytical approach is three-dimensional: after (1) having established the specific contents or topics of a specific discourse, (2) the discursive strategies (including argumentation strategies) are investigated. Then (3), the linguistic means (as types) and the specific, context-dependent linguistic realizations (as tokens) are examined (4).

There are several discursive elements and strategies which, in our discourse analytical view, deserve to receive special attention. We orientate ourselves to five constitutive questions:

How are persons named and referred to linguistically?

What traits, characteristics, qualities and features are attributed to them? By means of what arguments and argumentation schemes do specific persons or social groups try to justify and legitimize the inclusion or exclusion of some? From what perspective or point of view are these labels, attributions and arguments expressed? Are the respective utterances articulated overtly, are they even intensified or are they mitigated?

According to these questions, we are especially interested in five types of discursive strategies, which are all involved in the positive self- and negative other-presentation. The discursive construction of “US” and “THEM” is the basic fundament of discourses of identity and difference.

By “strategy” we generally mean a more or less accurate and more or less intentional plan of practices (including discursive practices) adopted to achieve a particular social, political, psychological or linguistic aim.

Table 1: Discursive strategies for positive self- and negative other representation

Feminist CDA (FCDA)

For feminist CDA, the focus is on how gender ideology and gendered relations of power are (re) produced, negotiated and contested in representations of social practices, in social relationships between people, and in people’s social and personal identities in texts and talk (Lazar 2005, 11).

The marriage of feminism with CDA, in sum, can produce a rich and powerful critique for action” (Lazar 2005, 5)

Suggested principles for research in FCDA (Wodak 2005a):

1) Breaking up dichotomies!
2) Differentiating the range of gendered identities!
3) Relating gender to other identities, such as ethnicity, social class, profession, culture, political affiliation, etc.! Interdisciplinarity necessary! 4) Analyzing gender in socio-political, situative, interactive and historical contexts! (Gender functions as one interpretative category in all contexts; gender enters as a social relation into all contexts) 5) Theorizing and analyzing the particularly insidious and oppressive nature of gender as an omni-relevant category in most social practices (in the interplay with 4). 6) Raising as problematic the notion of scientific neutrality (all knowledge is socially constructed!) 7) Viewing gender as ideological structure.

8) Deconstructing the hegemony and symbolic violence of gender in our societies! (i. e. focusing on the latent, covert mechanisms of discrimination; patriarchal gender ideology is structural, similar and to and combined with other discriminatory practices in our societies). 9) Contesting the prevailing gender ideology by making it transparent; 10) Viewing gender not only as discursively constructed but having a material base as well (different salaries for the same job for men and women, for example); 11) Reflecting one’s own research activities critically (This entails, for example, including female scholars from non-Western societies; see Lazar 2005, 19ff.).

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