Essex Summer School Course 2019 - Applying Discourse Theory - Politics, Ideology, Populism - 22 July - 2 August


University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
United Kingdom

COURSE - Applying Discourse Theory - Politics, Ideology, Populism

INSTRUCTORS - Jason Glynos & Yannis Stavrakakis

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

Organizer - Essex Summer School
Instructors - Jason Glynos & Yannis Stavrakakis
University of Essex
Contact person
Melanie Sawers
Contact person email address