Article published in:Approaches to grammar for interactional linguistics
[Pragmatics 23:3] 2013
► pp. 421–445
Analyzing equivalences in discourse
Are discourse theory and membership categorization analysis compatible?
Facing a crucial leap from political philosophy to empirical analysis, the approach to discourse analysis that arose in the aftermath of Laclau and Mouffe (1985), and that is currently known as the Essex school of discourse theory (DT), has in recent years repeatedly been accused of suffering from a methodological deficit. This paper examines to what extent membership categorization analysis (MCA), a branch of ethnomethodology that investigates lay actors’ situated descriptions-in-context as practical activity, can play a part in rendering poststructuralist DT notions such as articulation and equivalence analytically tangible in empirically observable discourse. Based on a review of Laclau and Mouffe’s foundational text as well as on Glynos and Howarth’s recent exposition of the framework (2007), it is argued that MCA empirically substantiates many poststructuralist claims about the indeterminacy of signification. However, MCA consistently falters - and willingly so - at the point where DT would articulate emerging equivalences between identity categories as part of a second-order explanatory concept, such as Glynos and Howarth’s notion of political logic. Nevertheless, MCA also contains the kernel of an “endogenous” notion of the political that comes fairly close to DT’s all-pervasive understanding of the concept. To support these arguments, a variety of empirical sources are mobilized, ranging from the transcript of a political talk show, a newspaper report regarding a discrimination case in a dance class, to data drawn from earlier research on the way that minority members are treated by the Belgian criminal justice system.
Keywords: Ethnomethodology, Membership categorization analysis, Discourse theory, Equivalence chain, Articulation, The political
Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 license.
Published online: 01 September 2013
Dupret, Baudouin, and Jean-Noël Ferrié
Frank, Arthur W
(1967) Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. BoP
Garfinkel, Harold, and Lawrence J. Wieder
Glynos, Jason, and Dennis Howarth
Hester, Stephen, and Peter Eglin
(eds.) (1997) Culture in Action: Studies in Membership Categorization Analysis.Washington, D.C: University Press of America. BoP
(1997a) Membership categorization analysis: An introduction. In S. Hester, and P. Eglin (eds.), Culture in Action: Studies in Membership Categorization Analysis. Washington D.C.: University Press of America, pp. 1-24. BoP
(1997b) The reflexive constitution of category, predicate and context in two settings. In S. Hester, and P. Eglin (eds.), Culture in Action: Studies in Membership Categorization Analysis. Washington D.C.: University Press of America, pp. 25-48. BoP
Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe
Maynard, Douglas W
Zimmerman, Don H
Cited by 3 other publications
Joyce, Jack B. & Linda Walz
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