Discourse Approaches

Angermuller, Johannes and Kollmorgen, Raj (2019). Discourse Approaches. In: Merkel, Wolfgang; Kollmorgen, Raj and Wagener, Hans-Jürgen eds. The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 212–220.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198829911.003.0021


As a practice of meaning making in society, discourse points to important dimensions of social and historical change. This chapter discusses examples of discourse research on social transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. It shows how methods from linguistic, semiotic, and cultural theory can be used to account for a changing social order (e.g., how change is narrated in Russia during the perestroika period or how Eastern Germans are represented in Western media discourse after the reunification). Against a background in Discourse Studies, we put special emphasis on macrosociological views of discursive change, which one can find, for instance, in Foucault’s power/knowledge approach, Laclau/Mouffian hegemony analysis, and Critical Discourse Analysis. The chapter concludes by pointing out the strengths as well as the limits of discourse research, which is based on the idea that language not only represents social realities but, through representation, also contributes to creating them.

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