Yesterday I came back to look at the agency of language, the spoken word, and how it ‘performs’ in a collective. I was thinking about the idea of discourses and how these are enacted; questioning, do they speak a worldview into existence and/or maintain it? I have been tousling with this notion of language/discourse and their agency to shape ways of being and relating for a while. Which precedes which, the culture or the language? Perhaps neither.
Dryzek (2005: 9) offers this as his definition of discourse:
‘A discourse is a shared way of apprehending the world. Embedded in the language, it enables those who subscribe to it to interpret bits of information and put them together into coherent stories or accounts. Discourses construct meanings and relationships, helping to define common sense and legitimate knowledge. Each discourse rests upon assumptions, judgements, and contentions, that provide the basic terms for analysis, debates, agreements, and disagreements.
Is it the emerging collective stories about acts of being with country that I want to explore in my thesis? Would the idea of a discourse have anything to offer my research?
Then these quotes (below) from Maratja and Yingiya come to mind and call into question my whole approach towards all of the aforementioned relationships between language/discourse and culture and brings people-place into the frame:
‘It’s the land which holds the sound, and then after that, we Yolŋu people. What we are talking about, is how that sound emerges‘ (Maratja in Christie, 2010: 67).
‘The land and the language are both talking together… Land needs its own language… If I can use the word ‘country’ this way I’m talking about the land, water cloud, wind, rain, animals, people and more. Example, wind is blowing and the waves are crashing, making a loud roar. What’s really happening there, is they are communicatingand they are singing and dancing in own clans’ language. When I sing, sing about its behaviour, swirling around and during turn of the tides, it reaches out communicating with other clans country and shares songs and dances with them’ (Guyula, 2010: personal comms.).
I thought it might be a good idea to look at what Latour (1996: online) has to say about discourses:
‘… from semiotics is kept the crucial practice to grant texts and discourses the ability to define also their context, their authors -in the text-, their readers -in fabula- and even their own demarcation and metalangage. All the problems of the analyst are shifted to the “text itself” without ever being allowed to escape into the context.’
Help!!! I either need to sit and contemplate this state for a while longer and have someone translate it for me. Calling all those who view with an ANT perspective!!!
One response to “I want to talk about discourse”
From Anthea…Another thought, on re-reading this. I don't hear a contradiction between Dryzek and Yingiya hear. Only that Dryzek probably wasn't including the language of country (spoken by waves and wind and rocks) when he talked about a 'shared way of apprehending the world'. Once a language is shared, it becomes a discourse. if no-one hears and understands when country speaks, then their is no discourse, but if there is understanding, then, meanings and relationships are constructed, as Dryzek says.