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Introducing Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis Methodology for

Analyzing Caribbean Social Problems: Going beyond systems,

resources, social action, social practices and forces of structure or lack
thereof as units of analysis

Lloyd Waller


Since the turn of the millennium, many Caribbean social scientists have
still been battling to understand and thus solve old as well as new and
emerging problems facing Caribbean countries. The dominant approach
to understanding these problems has generally focused on systems,
resources social action, social practices and forces of structure or lack
thereof as units of analysis. Recent scholarship in the global sphere has,
however, suggested that these problems may be, rather, a result of
language and discourse. Yet, only a few Caribbean social scientists have
recognized this discovery. And, even within this select group, none has
demonstrated any real appreciation of systematically analyzing the
discourses surrounding Caribbean social life, leaving them open to
criticisms regarding rigour and trustworthiness. This has wide
implications for the research process, the acceptance of findings as well
as for policy recommendations. This article thus attempts to expand the
social practice level analysis to include discourse as a moment of social
life. It also seeks to highlight and draw attention to one possible
methodology and analytical tool for systematically analyzing discourse –
Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis Approach. Such an approach
aims to explore as well as articulate how language, power and (to some
extent) ideology are related to social practices as broader social and
historical contexts. Given the power dynamics of Caribbean social life,
such an approach is indeed appropriate.

The Caribbean today still faces a number of old problems while being additionally
threatened by new and emerging ones. Some of these problems include: marketization
and global capitalism, the transformation of everything into merchandise – the
commodification of everything, gender, health, sexuality, class, cultural, ethnic, colour
and national difference, unjust social relations caused by these differences, poverty,
inequality and unemployment (which may be a consequence of this difference) the
imposition of knowledge, oppression, in-civility, corruption, organized violence
hegemonic transnational institutions and their control of nation states and social actors,
global surveillance, issues of privacy and the manipulation of identities through global
information and communication technologies, as well as underdevelopment. Despite the
many research projects to address these problems they still persist.

For the most part, such ‘research projects’ have tended to focus on systems, resources
social action, social practices and forces of structure or lack thereof as units of analysis.
Fairclough et al (2004) and in many ways Bourdieu and Wacquant (2001), as well as
Jessop (2000) and Held et al (1999) have elsewhere argued that problems of such nature,
in addition to being a result of systems, resources social action, social practices and
forces of structure or lack thereof, may also be problems of how things are represented or
framed in text/language and how power exists in and over text/language and have argued
for the inclusion of texts as unit of analysis in deconstructing social life. Fairclough
(2003) further suggests that these texts operate conjointly with vocal and visual elements
(depiction, gesture, graphics, typography), in the context of meaning-laden architects,
with the semiotics of action itself, and with music or other extra-linguistic auditory signs
(Fairclough et al. 2004: p. 5). In other words, what Fairclough is saying is that these
problems also extend to problems of discourse. Indeed even the most ardent
Postcolonialist should appreciate the value of these European scholars.

Such texts include magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Vogue; newspapers; spoken
conversations; regulations and guidelines/recommendations in speeches; contracts; rules;
accords, books, booklet, brochures and leaflets; memoranda of understandings;
resolutions; agreements in text/documentations; and visual images from interactions;
conversations with specific vocabularies and terminologies about ordering and patterns;
as well as influential sounds and images on televisions, radios, internet websites and text
messages. Some of the discourses associated with these texts include specific styles;
ways of acting, representing and organizing; as well as specific identities associated with
their (the texts) production, distribution, transformation and consumption.

Following Fairclough (1992; 2003), Bourdieu and Wacquant, (2001) as well as Jessop,
(2000) and Held et al. (1999), I argue that such texts and their associated discourses
(together discourses) play an important role in regulating social life in the Caribbean. In
the Caribbean these discourses are very often constructed by hegemonic monopolistic
and/or quasi-monopolistic agents (Microsoft and UNDP are examples of this – See
Microsoft, 2004). These bodies, through their knowledge and power, use projects of
normalization and mystification to influence behaviour as well as to enact their own
agendas and interests which very often translate into projects of control. Indeed, such
projects, such as the Structural Adjustment Policies 1980s – 1990s, have been popular
over the years throughout the region and represent a continuation of the spread of the
‘spirit of capitalism’ and the drive to preserve the status quo. Today, however, I argue
that their power has multiplied manifold with the advent of discursive instruments such
as globalization, and particularly with information and communication technologies

To understand Caribbean social life today therefore requires going beyond the traditional
units of analysis which have preoccupied the minds of the regions social scientists to
include a proper deconstruction of texts and their associated discourses – these
mechanisms of control. Such projects, may help researchers to better understand the
cosmologies of Caribbean social life, what they encourage, how the interests of a few are

manifested in them, how some discourses are interpreted by many and how others evoke
acts of resistance.

Yet, based on a review of several leading social science related journal publications
published in the Caribbean since this century (specifically Social and Economic Studies
and the Journal of Eastern Caribbean Studies), it is possible to argue that many
Caribbean social scientists have not fully recognized such problems as moments of
language and their associated discourse (again, together discourse). There are several
different factors which, either taken together, or individually, may explain this oversight.
Some of these may include: the view that language and discourse are elements of the
discipline of Linguistics (outside the realm of the social sciences) and the perception that
such units of analysis are too complex to deconstruct without a background in linguistics;
a possible disconnect between the humanities and the social sciences within the
Caribbean (despite the migration of many social scientist to humanities to “hoping to
learn how to do complex structural and post-structural reading of social texts” (Denzin
and Lincoln, 2005: p. 3) in other parts of the world); the Fustian-type discussions of those
championing the analysis of discourse and/or the multidimensional and complex process
which they recommend for such analysis. In addition to these, Fairclough et al (2004)
have also suggested that:

…there is also a widespread suspicion of discourse analysis amongst

social scientists, a perception that it is often vague and ill-defined,
supported by the manifold definitions of discourse in social theory (for
example in Foucault as opposed to Habermas), in different national
academic traditions (for example Germany as opposed to Britain and the
USA), as well as in various areas of language study (for example
pragmatics, text linguistics, as well as discourse analysis itself). Many
social research papers identify discourses in whatever material they are
analyzing without giving much indication of what particular features
characterize a particular discourse and help us to recognize its presence, or
the grounds for claiming that there are different discourses, or for
distinguishing three rather than, say, five discourses in a given context.
Another cause for suspicion is the assumption, correct in a few instances
but incorrect for most critical discourse analysis, that discourse analysts
reduce the whole of social life to discourse, leaving no space for analysis
of the material world or social structures (p. 3).

There have however been a few social scientists that, despite these challenges, have
focused on discourse as a unit of analysis (see for example Dann, 2004). This select few
have not however demonstrated in any way a real appreciation for systematically
analyzing the discourses of Caribbean social life. Certainly, this leaves them open to
criticisms from positivist, postpositivist and even their own interpretivist colleagues
regarding rigour, trustworthiness and substantiveness. This has wide implications for the
acceptance of findings as well as policy recommendations.

The current article therefore attempts to address this oversight. Seemingly theoretical and
certainly pedagogical: its aim is to highlight and draw attention to: (1) the importance of
text (language) and more so discourse as an additional unit of analysis for analyzing
Caribbean social life and understanding Caribbean social problems; (2) the text
(language) discourse linkages and differences and the relationship between text
(language) and social practice (the oscillation between social relations, events, structure,
action and agency and (3) one possible methodology and analytical tool for
systematically analyzing Caribbean social life and understanding Caribbean social
problems – Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis methodology.

The Text (Language) and Discourse Link and the value of Discourse as a Unit of
Texts, whether written or spoken, or representations of language in images, movements
or sounds, are the “key raw materials out of which specific discourses, understood as
bounded (sometimes strictly so) ways of representing the world, get shaped” (Fairclough,
2003: p. 2) and can be understood. Texts thus provide us with insights into language, and
according to Fairclough, (2003), “language is an irreducible part of social life,
dialectically interconnected with other elements of social life, so that social analysis and
research always has to take into account language” (p. 2) or how language is represented
in text. Language constructs and is constructed by social relations, events, structure,
action and agency. Language also provides a good description of structures, events, social
practices, social networks, and relations between and among people, between and among
institutions, between institutions and people. Thus language provides us insights into

There are many different definitions of discourse. For example, Habermas (1984) sees it
as a form of ‘communicative action’ which is an expression of rationality. Hall (2004)
tell us that it is “a group of statements which provide a language for talking about – i.e., a
way of representing – a particular kind of knowledge about a topic (p. 60). Macdonell
(1986) defines it as a process of social exchange of language which is organized around
rules and regulations involving social intercourse. Harvey (1996) explains that it is a
combination of languages bounded together to represent the world. Gee (1999) notes that
it is the use of language to socially identify and position oneself. And Parker (1992)
represents it as “a system of statements which constructs an object” (p.5). But it is
Fairclough’s definition of discourse, which extends the work of Foucault (1972, 1977,
1980) that I wish to use in this article and promote. According to Fairclough (1989, 1992,
1995a, 1995b, 1995c, 2003) and Chouliaraki and Fairclough, (1999) discourse is a way of
constituting knowledge about a particular topic at a historical moment through language
in speech and text or images and sounds, or representations in postures, movements and
structures which shape or are shaped by institutions, situations and structures. Language
in speech and text or images and sounds, or representations in postures, movements and
structures are constituted by discourse, and these discourses help to identify a subject’s
characteristics and possibility. Discourse provides an image about the reality of the
subject (individual, group, institution), and how meanings are constructed in certain

situations. Thus what language (body language, spoken language, written language and
environmental language) really does is to give us insights into discourse.

For Fairclough, discourse also includes ‘other elements’ sometimes referred to as ‘social
practices’, or ‘moments’ of social life or extra-discursive elements (Fairclough, 1995a,
1995b, 1995c, 2003; Harvey, 1996). Moments, social practices or extra-discursive
elements (and I use these terms interchangeably) are relatively stabilized forms of social
actions. The literature identifies two different types of moments. These are (a) discursive
practices and (b) socio-cultural practices.

Discursive practices include action and interaction, social relations, the material world,
material practices, as well as the rituals, beliefs, attitudes, values, desires of people and
institutions (Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999: p. 28). They also include power and
discourse (Harvey, 1996: p. 78), forms of consciousness, time and space, objects,
instruments, subjects and their social relations and activities (Fairclough, 2001: p. 1;
Fairclough, 2003: p. 205) as well as abstract social structures, concrete social events as
well as relatively stabilized forms of social activity (Fairclough, 2004:p. 5). Socio-
cultural practices are the wider socio-cultural, political, ideological and institutional
structures and processes in a historical context (Fairclough, 2003; see also Weiss and
Wodak, 2002). The concept of social practice allows one to capture the changeability and
interactive flow between social structure, as well as social action and agency and the role
of discourse in this context. Absorbing moments, social practices or extra-discursive
within the operational definition of discourse thus suggests an oscillation between the
perspectives of social structure, action and agency (Fairclough, 2003).

Discourse internalizes these other moments without them being reducible to each other
(Fairclough, 2003). In other words, these elements are dialectically related in that they are
the active entanglement of relations, interactive discussions, contradictions, permutations,
difference combinations, interactions, argumentation, reasoning and reactions which is
likened to the process of exchanging propositions (thesis) and counter-propositions
(antithesis) to produce synthesis - a socially constructed truth (either someone’s truth, an
agreed-upon truth, an abstraction of the truth or an imposed truth). Analyzing discourse
thus requires a form of ‘dialectical thinking’ (Harvey, 1996: p. 49). One needs to
understand the processes, flows, fluxes, circulatory framework, and relations over the
analysis of elements, things, structures and organized systems (p. 49) and how, why and
in what way they were constructed. One needs to also have an understanding that
“elements, things, structures, and systems do not exist outside of or prior to the processes,
flows, and relations that create, sustain, or undermine them” (p. 49).

According to Fairclough (2001), discourse “features in broadly three ways of social

practices” (p. 2): as genres (ways of acting and organizing or action or ways of relating) –
interacting through speaking and writing; as discourses (ways of representing or
representation) - as particular ways of representing the world, and as styles (ways of
being, one’s identity) – “particular social or personal identities” (Fairclough, 2003: p. 26).
What this all suggests then is that discourses are considered as a combination of text,
event, the wider physical and social world, and “the persons involved in the event” (p.

27). This relationship between ways of representing, ways of acting and ways of being,
within the context of social practices, is a dialectical one. Fairclough (2001) attempts to
illustrate the link between these three elements in his 2001 paper “The Dialectics of
Discourse” (and more comprehensively in his 2003 publication Analyzing Discourse:
Textual analysis for social research). His arguments are worth quoting in length:

Discourses include representations of how things are and have been, as

well as imaginaries – representations of how things might or could or
should be….In terms of the concept of social practice, they imagine
possible social practices and networks of social practices – possible
syntheses of activities, subjects, social relations, instruments, objects,
space-time,…values, forms of consciousness. These imaginaries may be
enacted as actual (networks of) practices – imagined activities, subjects,
social relations etc can become real activities, subjects, social relations
etc. Such enactments include materializations of discourses – economic
discourses become materialized for instance in the instruments of
economic production, including the ‘hardware’ (plant, machinery, etc) and
the ‘software’ (management systems, etc). Such enactments are also in
part themselves discoursal/semiotic: discourses become enacted as
genres….Discourses as imaginaries may also come to be inculcated as
new ways of being, new identities….Inculcation is a matter of, in the
current jargon, people coming to ‘own’ discourses, to position themselves
inside them, to act and think and talk and see themselves in terms of new
discourses…. Inculcation also has its material aspects: discourses are
dialectically inculcated not only in styles, ways of using language, they are
also materialized in bodies, postures, gestures, ways of moving, and so

The dialectical process does not end with enactment and inculcation.
Social life is reflexive. That is, people not only act and interact within
networks of social practices, they also interpret and represent to
themselves and each other what they do, and these interpretations and
representations shape and reshape what they do. (p. 2-3).[1]

What Fairclough (2003) suggests here is that particular ‘ways of representing’ social life
(discourses) may in many ways be enacted in specific ‘ways of acting’ (genres or social
practices), and inculcated in certain ‘ways of being’ (certain styles). They can be seen
together in texts as what brings subject, objects and action – the cosmologies of a
phenomenon – to the fore. Thus, taken together, and, as mentioned earlier, discourse,
genre, styles and social practices model the structure/agency/action link and, a systematic
analysis of text can in many ways capture this constellation. According to Fairclough,
focusing on discourse can thus provide inroads into these other moments of social life
and how they are arranged around a social phenomenon – their cause and consequences.

Fairclough however also admits that it is possible for new discourse to enter an institution without being
enacted or for that matter inculcated

The notion of social practices suggests that the entire world is thus not reduced to
discourse as some scholars critical of discourse analysis techniques have argued (see for
example Widdowson, 1995). Rather, discourse must be understood dialectically in
relation to the other moments (Fairclough, 2003). This dialectical process can provide an
understanding of these other moments as they (the other moments) all have some form of
discursive property and, thus provides a researcher with insights into the discursive
processes and the dynamics of a phenomenon.

Fairclough (2003) has also argued that discourse can have various meanings and
represent a multiplicity of subjects and objects based on the audience, environment,
history, position of the producer, and the recipient. Consequently, through a
communicative process, discourse can position and label people in different ways
(Fairclough, 1989, 1992, 1995a, 1995b, 1995c, 2003). It is important to note here that
Fairclough is not alone in such thinking (see also Weiss and Wodak, 2002; Harvey, 1996;
Macdonell, 1986; Foucault 1972, 1977, 1980). For example, discourse can define the
roles of social actors – as someone who can (or cannot) bring about a change in a
condition or as those who are (or are not) knowledgeable. It can also define their status,
for example, as those who need (or do not need) help, as those who cannot (or can)
understand complex things or as those who are (or are not) in the lower class, middle
class, or upper class. Discourse can thus be viewed as socially constitutive of, as well as
socially conditioned from constituted objects, subjects, processes, events and phenomena
– it is constitutive both in the sense that it helps to sustain and reproduce the social status
quo, and in the sense that it contributes to transforming it (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997:
p. 258).

In many ways then, it may be possible to argue that discourse is normalized by, and
normalizes social practice. Many people act and organize through and around discourses
in specific ways. Such action helps to shape and create discourses while at the same being
shaped by discourse. The action represents ways of acting and organizing, and produces,
and is produced by imaginary projections of new or alternative ways of acting and
organizing (Fairclough et al, 2004). For example, terms such as ‘the knowledge society’,
‘bridging the digital divide’, and ‘ICT for development’ may be constructed as discourses
that specify ways of (inter)acting which become modes of operation. At the same time it
must also be noted that ways of (inter)acting help to shape and redefine the notion of ‘the
knowledge society’ itself.

The ability of a discourse to influence social practice or vica versa is dependent on the
dynamics of power. Thus, having an understanding of the power relations of a discourse
is indeed important. Foucault, who does not produce a dialectical version of discourse,
argues that the power to define terms determines the outcome of a discourse. For
example, the power of an institution, a group or an individual can influence social actions
and relations. According to Titscher et al, (2000) (extending Foucault’s arguments to a
dialectical moment) “[p]ower relations have to do with discourse….Society and culture
are dialectically related to discourse: society and culture are shaped by discourse, and at
the same time constitute discourse” (p. 148).

Analyzing Discourse
In the last decade or so, many different tools have been developed to analyze discourse
(see in Weiss and Wodak, 2002; Titscher, et al, 2000). Because of this diversity, Weiss
and Wodak (2002) have correctly asserted that studies in analyzing discourse are
multifarious, derived from quite different theoretical backgrounds and oriented towards
very different data and methodologies as well as epistemological influences. A taxonomy
of these different tools however suggests that there are two different poles. For example,
on the one hand, there is a focus on a detailed analysis of texts – the linguistic features of
texts –an approach which may be considered to be narrow. On the other hand, there is a
focus on the social aspects of text production, transformation, distribution, consumption
and redistribution – focusing only on discourse – an approach which may be regarded as
wide. Within these two poles, there also exist other poles – a normative and a critical
approach. The former is an attempt to understand the configurations of a discourse
operating within standard status-quo space. The latter is specific to deconstructing
hegemonic relations of power in and over discourse and how this undermines social
justice and may be considered anti status-quo, challenging the status-quo so to speak.

In this article I wish to focus on an approach by Norman Fairclough – Critical Discourse

Analysis or CDA (Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1995a, 1995b, 1995c, 2003), Chouliaraki and
Fairclough, (1999). Such an approach attempts to transcend these vertical and horizontal
divisions by bridging the texts and social aspect of text production divide (Bloome and
Talwalkar, 1997) and merge the normative and critical approach which exists within
textual analysis and the social analysis of text production process. In addition to this,
Fairclough’s CDA approach also provides “a theory-method linkage that is absent in
many sociological discussions of everyday life and language use and in many linguistic
discussions of social dynamics” (Bloome and Talwalkar, 1997: p. 105). Fairclough
describes his approach:

On the one hand, any analysis of texts which aims to be significant in

social scientific terms has to connect with the theoretical questions about
discourse (e.g. the socially ‘constructive’ effects of discourse). On the
other hand, no real understanding of the social effects of discourse is
possible without looking closely at what happens when people talk or
write (Fairclough, 2003: p. 3).

Fairclough (2003) further states that “text analysis is an essential part of discourse
analysis…discourse analysis is not merely the linguistic analysis of text” (p. 3). Rather,
discourse analysis oscillates between the focus on specific texts and the focus on the
relatively durable social structuring of language which in many ways is itself merely one
of many elements of a relatively durable structuring and networking of extra-discursive
practices – social practices and sociocultural practices. In other words, it is the slippage
between content/description of text, their creation/production, distribution, projected
(how texts are represented in terms of the different discourses, genres, and styles they

draw upon and articulate together), transformation and their receipt – discursive
processes. Thus for Fairclough, texts are connected to broader social structures, events,
actions, processes and practices.

Fairclough’s CDA first made its début in 1992 with the publication of Discourse and
Social Change. In this text Fairclough had introduced various critical approaches to
discourse analysis which he consolidated in 1995 with the publication of Critical
Discourse Analysis. His approach was made more robust in a joint project with Lilie
Chouliaraki in a 1999 publication Discourse in Late Modernity - Rethinking Critical
Discourse Analysis. Here both himself and Chouliaraki outlined a more focused and
substantive approach to the critical analysis of discourse which was further refined over
the years through approximately 20 publications influenced by the application of the
methodology within the discipline of government and politics as well as media. His most
recent publication Analyzing discourse: textual analysis for social research is a
culmination of more than a decade of theorizing about, experimenting with, and
developing methodologies for critically analyzing discourse.

Today, Fairclough’s CDA has been defined as a methodology which is fundamentally

interested in analyzing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of
dominance, discrimination, power and control manifested in language (Weiss and
Wodak, 2002). It is an approach to deconstructing society which aims to critically
investigate possible social inequality as it is expressed, constituted, legitimized, and so
on, by language use (or in discourse) (p. 15).

According to Chouliaraki and Fairclough, (1999) the approach emerged from Critical
Theory as a method for accomplishing the critical agenda, an aspect of Fairclough’s CDA
which sets it apart from other approaches to the analysis of discourse.

Critical theory is considered as any approach which seeks to “upset institutions and
threatens to overturn sovereign regimes of truth” (Kincheloe and McLaren, 2000: p. 433).
Critical Theory, Agger (1991) explains, was developed by the Frankfurt School to
“explain why the socialist revolution prophesised by Marx…did not occur as expected”
(p. 107) and “the changing nature of capitalism” (Kincheloe and McLaren, 2000: p.
434).According to Kincheloe and McLaren, (2000), Critical Theory:

…analyses competing power interests between groups and individuals

within a society – identifying who gains and who loses in specific
situations. Privileged groups, criticalists argue, often have an interest in
supporting the status quo to protect their advantages; the dynamics of such
efforts often become a central focus of critical research…critical research
attempts to expose the forces that prevent individuals and groups from
shaping the decisions that crucially affect their lives (Kincheloe and
McLaren, 2000: p. 437).

For Alvesson, and Deetz, (2000) the agenda of Critical Theory therefore is:

1. Identifying and challenging assumptions behind ordinary ways of
perceiving, conceiving and acting;
2. recognizing the influence of history, culture, and social
positioning on beliefs and actions;
3. imaging and exploring extraordinary alternatives, ones that may
disrupt routines and established orders;
4. being appropriately sceptical about any knowledge or solution
that claims to be the only truth or alternative (Alvesson, and
Deetz, 2000: p. 8).

Critical theory is thus an emancipatory process which is committed to engaging

oppressed groups and undertake democratic theorizing about what is common or different
about “their experiences of oppression and privilege….A constant focus is given to the
material and cultural practices that create structures of oppression” (Denzin, 1998: p.
332). It is an approach which gives the oppressed a space to speak, to tell their story. This
process is dialogic and collaborative as the researcher assists the oppressed through data
analysis and interpretation.

Fairclough’s CDA extends Critical Theory by connecting it to an understanding of the

ways in which people are unequally positioned through an analysis of discourse, how
people socially construct the meanings of objects and subject (and the influences behind
these constructions) in the production and consumption of language in spoken and written
form. In other words, a critical analysis of discourse explores the connections between
the use of language and the social, historical and political contexts in which it occurs,
how language is used in social interactions and how language influences social relations
and practices. It also extends Foucault’s (1972, 1977, 1980) project in unravelling
power relations through the analysis of “competing power interests between groups and
individuals” (Kincheloe and McLaren, 2000: p. 437) by analyzing the dialectical
relationships between “discourse …and other elements of social practice” (Fairclough,
2003: p. 205) (locating power in discourse and power over discourse in a historical,
socio-cultural and political context). In addition to the influences of Foucault,
Fairclough’s CDA model also builds on the works of other social theorists such as
Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and Jürgen Habermas as well as literary theorists such
as Michael Halliday, Michel Pecheux, Gunther Kress and Mikhail Bakhtin, (Fairclough,
1992; Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999). This interdiscliplinary/transdiscliplinary
(Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999: p. 16) aspect of CDA positions the methodology as a
theory formulation instrument which synthesizes both linguistic and sociological
conceptual tools so as to better analyze and explain the complex interactions, and
interrelations between and among the communicators of social life (Weiss and Wodak,
2002: p. 7). It positions the researcher to:

…systematically explore often opaque relationships of causality and

determination between (a) discursive practices, events and texts, and (b)
wider social and cultural structures, relations and processes; to investigate

how such practices, events and texts arise out of and are ideologically
shaped by relations of power and struggles over power; and to explore how
the opacity of these relationships between discourse and society is itself a
factor securing power and hegemony (Fairclough, 2003: p. 135)

According to Bloome, and Talwalkar (1997), this is based on Fairclough’s assumption


…people use language to accomplish a variety of social goals; he also

assumes that any analysis of language must be wedded to a social theory
that encompasses both every social practice… and social institutions in
which they occur…, as well as the broader ideological context…issues of
power and control are central to the social theories that Fairclough builds
upon (p. 107).

Fairclough’s CDA (Henceforth CDA) thus also attempts to locate, describe, understand,
interpret and explain these nuances of unequal relations of power as well as those of
dominance, hegemony, marginalization, exploitation and/or inequality (and other forms
of social injustices) in or over discourse practice through an analysis of language. It seeks
to understand and explain how these social injustices are initiated, hidden, transformed,
reproduced, and legitimized, the agencies that generate, normalize, mystify, alter or
change them, and their links to wider socio-cultural, political, historical, ideological and
institutional contexts in an attempt to introduce to, and make humanity aware of, the
influences of discourse and thus encourage participation in processes leading to positive
change. This is accomplished by detecting struggles between the strategies of change of
different groups of social agents.

This process of detecting is done through three different types of critique all of which are
tied to the agenda of Critical Theory – strategic, ideological and rhetorical critique.
Fairclough (2004) has defined these as:

Ideological critique: critique of how a system of social relations is

sustained through representations of a social order which are in
contradiction with its realities.

Rhetorical critique: critique of the subordination of considerations of truth

and sound argumentation to the will to persuade.

Strategic critique: critique of how discourse figures in the development,

promotion and dissemination of the strategies for social change of
particular groups of social agents, and in hegemonic struggle between
strategies, and in the implementation of successful strategies (p. 7).

In critiquing, CDA often targets dominant groups or “power elites that sustain social
inequality and injustice” (Weiss and Wodak, 2002: p. 38) through social relations. CDA
studies their potential for reproducing social structures and the consequence for social

inequality. Such social power relations are based on preferential access to or control over
scarce social resources by the dominant group. Certainly this has always been the concern
of Caribbean social scientists. These resources are not only material, but also symbolic
and knowledge related. The resources include access to public discourse which, Weiss
and Wodak, (2002) argue, is “among the major symbolic power resources of
contemporary society” (p. 87). Such aspects of social resources have however largely
been downplayed in the Caribbean social sciences.

CDA puts the power elite control in and over discourse into question to reveal hidden
needs, interests and agendas, demonstrating how they (the power elite) use knowledge in
public discourse to control and dominate social relations that serve self interests,
maintaining social inequality and injustice. CDA makes the marginalized aware of the
dynamics of their social situation, position and circumstances and helps to make their
voice legitimate and heard. This is done by uncovering ideological assumptions and
clarifying the connections between the use of language/discourse, ideologies and the
exercise of power/knowledge through a systematic exploration of the relationships
between discursive practices, texts, social, socio-cultural structures, institutions,
ideologies, and associated processes. According to Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999)
CDA is inherently beneficial in theorizing transformations by creating an awareness of
“what is, how it has come to be, and what it might become, on the basis of which people
may be able to make and remake their lives” (p. 4). CDA then contributes to making a
positive change to the lives of the less privileged.

Using Fairclough’s CDA to systematically analyze discourse

As mentioned earlier, for Fairclough, analyzing discourse is a synergy of the
aforementioned three levels of analysis, that is (1) the actual text (which he describes as
discourse-as-text) (2) producing, distributing, transforming and consuming the texts
(which he describes as discourse-as-discursive practice) and (3) the larger social context
which may have influenced the
creation of the texts (which he
describes as discourse-as-social-
practice) – which takes into
consideration the underlying
socio-cultural and power
structures in society. Figure 1
presents a graphical
representation of this process, a
process which Fairclough states
is a continual movement back
and forth among the various
levels of analysis – descriptive,
interpretive and explanatory.

Figure 1

To fully understand this model, a detailed discussion is indeed necessary. At the text
level, there is a focus on describing the contents of text (also language in text) themselves
– their discursive content – as well as how these texts are linked to other discourses,
genres and styles. Fairclough refers to this process as intertextuality. Essentially at this
level, the researcher looks at what is represented in the text. Here the analysis is
descriptive and, in many ways, can be described as a form of linguistic analysis of texts
in that texts are analyzed by looking at vocabularies (wording and metaphors), semantics,
utterances, grammar (transitivity, modality) to identify “representations, categories of
participant, constructions of participant identity or participant relations” (Fairclough,
1995a: p. 58) of subjects, objects, social positions, how subjects and objects were
positioned, and instances of relations of power in the use of language. It is also important
to look at “collocations, patterns of co-occurrences of words in text, simply looking at
which other words most frequently precede and follow any word which is in focus
(Fairclough, 2003:p. 131). Also of specific interest at this level are the genres to which
specific discourses belong, whether the texts conform to that particular genre, the
semantic relationships, how elements of social events (processes, people, objects, means,
times, places) are represented (Fairclough, 2003: p. 133), the absence/exclusion or
inclusion of specific characteristics in the genre, generalizations, how events are ordered,
the angle which is being taken, what is emphasized (foregrounding) what is not
(backgrounding) and, among other things, what are the main assumptions and
presuppositions of the generic and discursive configurations of text.

The analysis then expands to the discursive practice level – discourse(s)-as-discursive

practice. The researcher analyzes what are the factors that influence how social actors
interpret an event and how this process influences the production, distribution,
transformation and consumption of texts. At this level, an interpretation of discursive
practices in relation to events, inter-discursivity (how different discourses are related),
orders of discourse (a network of a socially ordered set of genres, social practices and
discourses associated with a particular social field) and the power relations between
people in an event are undertaken. It is also at this level that moments such as action,
interaction, social relations, the material world, material practices, the rituals, beliefs,
attitudes, values, desires of people and institutions, power and discourse, forms of
consciousness, time and space, objects, instruments, subjects and their social relations,
activities as well as abstract social structures and concrete social events are taken into
consideration in relation to text production, distribution, transformation and consumption
to ascertain possible social injustice in and over discourse.

Finally, understanding the wider socio-cultural, political, ideological, institutional and

historical context and structures surrounding the text and their associated discourses –
sociocultural practice – is an important activity in explaining the dynamics of a text and
how the text is produced, distributed, transformed and consumed as well as the discursive

elements of this (text/text formation and so on) process. Here the analysis is at the
‘explanatory level’. At this level one also takes into consideration the underlying power
relations which might be reproduced, how they facilitate the exploitation and
marginalization of groups as well as possibilities of change and resistance. The process
also helps a researcher to identify, understand and explain the causal and circular logic at
work, in other words how and why powerful discourses and powerful agentic forces
“shape beliefs, fantasies and desires so as to regulate practices of institution building that
set the stage for material production and reproduction activities that in turn construct
social relations that finally return to ensure the perpetuation of power” (Harvey, 1996: p.

Fairclough’s CDA – Problems and Solutions: A Bricoleurian Approach to Building

Trustworthiness and Rigor
In concluding this article it is important to note that the CDA methodology has been
heavily criticized for being too interpretive and subjective with little room for objectivity
(see Widdowson, 1995). In other words it is a methodology which is too political and
prone to bias. For many contemporary qualitative researchers however, objectivity is
questionable and the multiplicity of truths which politics brings to a research is
welcomed. What is really of importance for many contemporary qualitative
methodologies are issues of trustworthiness and rigour. Fairclough’s CDA in its existing
form is indeed questionable in this regard. I have thus attempted to address this problem
by juxtaposing Fairclough’s CDA with other methodological and data analytical tools
which I believe makes his approach a more trustworthy and rigorous one.

This juxtaposition is made possible by what Fairclough describes as the fluidity of his
CDA approach. According to him, like many other qualitative methodologies one of the
strengths of his approach to analyzing discourse, his methodology, is that it may be used
in conjunction with other methodologies such as ethnography. In my use of this tool
(Fairclough’s CDA approach) to analyze the discourses surrounding an ICT for
development initiative in Jamaica for microenterprise entrepreneurs operating in the
tourism industry I have found this to be true. For example I was able to juxtapose
Fairclough’s CDA with various elements of Strauss and Corbin’s, (1990, 1998) Constant
Comparative Analysis of Grounded Theory, Yin’s (1994) Case Study method approach,
and Miles and Huberman’s (1994) Matrix Technique. This ‘bricoleurian’ approach
(Denzin and Lincoln, 2005) - an “emergent construction that changes and takes new
forms as the bricoleur adds different tools, methods, techniques of representation and
interpretation to the puzzle” (p. 4) or the mixing of methodologies and methods of data
analysis (triangulation) to suit a particular research agenda – proved to be useful. Let me
elaborate some more.

The Matrix Technique of Miles and Huberman, for example, can be used in helping to
simplify the analysis of data collected for a particular purpose. With matrices a researcher
is able to sort data into increasingly manageable displays. Matrices also help in avoiding
aggregation – they keep the data distinct. Matrices can be grouped by cases and Yin’s
Case Study approach is excellent in this regard. Yin’s Case Study approach can be used

to unpack the matrices in order to isolate specific cases as individuals, as events, actions,
structures, relations and so on and, compare the cases to see how they affect and are
affected by the phenomenon under investigation.

The nature of the case study method allows a researcher to focus on specific events and to
reconstruct the details of these proceedings and activities as they occur over time and in
space. In a sense then, the case study approach is like an examination of halted reality in
putting together events and activities. It allows snapshots of moments in an ongoing
process which, thereafter, the researcher interprets with the aim of explaining the
phenomenon under investigation. In less abstract terms, with the case study approach,
once the facts of an event or an activity are collected, they are then explored, examined
and compared with other similar situational occurrences to draw out specific issues
related to one’s research agenda. The analysis of the dynamics of each case contributes to
an understanding of the comparative (similar/dissimilar) dynamics of the cases. This
process provides a means of clustering, sorting, identifying and isolating cases, and
reducing them to themes. Once these themes emerge, they can then be further
grouped/reduced into higher order themes – higher level of abstractions of discursive
themes – by using Strauss and Corbin’s, (1990, 1998) Constant Comparative Analysis of
Grounded Theory. At this level, the researcher can begin to map the characteristics and
configurations of these discursive themes (broader discourses) with the aim of
understanding their relationships with, linkages to, dynamics of, and effects on individual
themes and cases specifically in relation to the orders of discourse, social practices, and
genres. Also at this level both discourse-as-discourse practice and discourse-as-
sociocultural practice are taken into consideration in the construction of more definitive
discursive themes, and explore case configurations to be able to see possible linkages
(network of relations) across themes and discursive themes. The researcher now can
attempt to identify shared meanings in discourse, as well as common ways of socially
constructing objects, subjects, processes and phenomena as well as possible differences
(isolated for more deconstructive analysis) which would be outlined in texts, thereby
capturing analysis and interpretation from which discursive themes could be further

In this data analysis/interpretive process, researchers should be mindful of their own

discourses. This is indeed important given the qualitative nature of CDA and the
criticisms that the tool is biased as it focuses on the interpretation (influenced by
presuppositions) and not on the data. But Miles and Huberman (1994) remind us that bias
is inescapable for the social researcher: According to them:

We all have our preconceptions, our pet theories about what is happening.
The risk is taking them for granted, imposing these willy-nilly, missing
the inductive grounding that is needed. We do not hold as strongly as
Glaser (1992) that all predefined concepts should be abjured in favour of
solely ‘grounded theory’ emergence” (p. 208).

Certainly, using CDA requires some form of reflection. The researcher needs to keep an
open mind with regard to what might emerge from the data, and will need to ground his
or her analyses of the data while generating meaning – interpreting, describing and
explaining. He or she will need to attempt to make conceptual/theoretical coherence,
through the process of constant analytical comparisons (seeing and understanding
themes, patterns, relationships, associations and causal networks with causal connections
drawn from multiple analysis) while undertaking data reduction and pattern coding, while
making as well as understanding contrasts and comparisons of degrees of effect among
the cases and themes, as discussed above.

This can further lead to what I refer to as ‘purifying discursive themes’ – when possible
explanations of a social phenomenon begin to emerge. Secondary data should be
consulted to compare and contrast causal connections, disconnections, and constructs
which may conflict with or support the data. This process can lead to the shifting from
concepts to attributes to theories which account for “the how and why of the phenomena
under study” (Miles and Huberman, 1994: p. 261). In other words, at this juncture
tentative conclusions, explanations about a phenomenon (theories), and/or hypotheses
can emerge.

As mentioned earlier, this approach was used in an interdiscliplinary qualitative study I

had undertaken to analyze the discourses surrounding an Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) for livelihood development project in Jamaica,
introduced by the United Nations Development Programme – the Jamaica Sustainable
Development Networking Programme (JSDNP). The primary objective of this project
was to provide the poor in Jamaican communities with access to, and training in ICTs. In
this research, I specifically focused on the discourses surrounding the JSDNP
Cybercentre Project for a group of microenterprise entrepreneurs in the Jamaican tourism
industry to access the epistemological assumptions of this project.

Through the use this approach, at one level it was found that the JSDNP Cybercentre
initiative discouraged the indigenization of non-indigenous technologies, represented the
achievement of livelihood development through the use of specific commercial
technologies, while marginalizing and/or excluding other more democratic
(fluid/flexible) ones. These modalities that the discourses promoted limited the
operational processes of all microenterprise entrepreneurs who were exposed to the
Cybercentre Project. These entrepreneurs had limited control over the configuration of
non-indigenous technologies; their technological and creative capabilities were restricted;
their ability to indigenize non-indigenous technologies impaired; and they were highly
dependent on non-indigenous technologies (which themselves have a number of
limitations). All this significantly undermined their ability to achieve livelihood

A Final Note
This article has attempted to demonstrate the importance of discourse as a unit of analysis
in deconstructing social life, the discourse/text links, and the utility of Fairclough’s CDA

model as well its fluidic characteristics. Given the power dynamics within and among
Caribbean societies, I believe that Fairclough’s CDA model would be an appropriate
methodology for scholars in the region trying to understand and explain Caribbean social
life. Thus, it is also hoped that this article has piqued the interest of Caribbean scholars. It
is important for readers to also note that not only is this article relevant to Caribbean
social scientists but it may be of importance to other social scientists in other regions of
the developing world, facing similar social problems and who are in a similar intellectual
position – of having overlooked discourse as a unit of analysis.


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