Newcastle Critical Discourse Group

Current Programme

SEMESTER 2 - 2016/17

February 8th

Tina Sikka

Power, language and the discursive construction of Geoengineering and Superfoods

ARMB 2.90 1600-1800

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March 8th

Alastair Cole

Language ideologies in multilingual Zambia: research through ethnography and documentary film practice.

ARMB 3.41 1600-1800

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April 26th

Massimo Ragnedda

The Third Digital Divide: A Weberian approach to rethinking digital inequalities

ARMB 3.41 1600-1800

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May 24th

PhD symposium – Details TBC.  

ARMB 3.38 1000-1700

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ABSTRACTS

Tina Sikka

Power, language and the discursive construction of Geoengineering and Superfoods

In this talk I discuss two different papers in which critical discourse analysis is drawn to examine seemingly unrelated technologies: geoengineering and superfoods. The connection between the two is CDA, which is drawn on to examine how language, as a social practice, is implicated in relations of power with significant material consequences.

I begin by examining the discursive field of geoengineering by unpacking how particular members, associates and academics allied with private institutes frame, treat and discursively construct a justification of geoengineering technologies. I begin with a brief introduction to geoengineering, followed by a discussion of relevant international agreements and an overview of critical discourse analysis. I outline several discursive strategies employed by scientific and political advocates of geoengineering to reify a particular understanding of its need. While there are multiple ways geoengineering is framed by a wide variety of actors, I discuss the framings of the market and exceptionalism made by The American Enterprise Institute, The Climate Response Fund and The Climate Institute in detail which I then supplement by some additional material where appropriate.

I then turn to superfoods. I argue that the contemporary superfood movement, which is currently embraced by a strata of the financially well off in North America and Western Europe, is not socially, politically, or economically progressive. I also argue this movement fails in its stated objective to change the quality of our food, transform the consolidated food production system, and improve the state of public health. Rather, I contend that superfood companies like Navitas Naturals, Naturya, and Raw Revolution, through a variety of discursive strategies, work to visually and linguistically construct their products as progressive in order to mask an underlying reliance on neoliberal business practices, nutritionism, and gendered stereotypes.  They also rely on the harnessing of discursive strategies in order to build a kind of tribe or cult-like social identity around the sustained consumption of superfoods. In supporting this position, I begin with a description of what superfoods are, how they differ from functional foods, and provide a brief background into the companies taken up in this piece. I then discuss critical discourse analysis (CDA), which I then use to unpack the ways in which neoliberalism, nutritionism, and gender bias function in superfood discourse with specific attention paid to how these food products are advertised.


Alastair Cole

Language ideologies in multilingual Zambia: research through ethnography and documentary film practice.

The presentation will discuss the nature of the language ideologies present in the multilingual contexts of primary education and rural life in Zambia, a country with 72 language, but only one official language - English, spoken at home by less than 2% of the country. Through a combination of ethnography and documentary film practice the research project reveals specific hierarchies of language valuation within the community under study, and resulted in the feature documentary film Colours of the Alphabet (Screening at Tyneside Cinema February 7th 2017). The project brings into focus the experiences of one grade one class, their teacher, and the surrounding Soli speaking community of Lwimba over the course of one year. The presentation will present the linguistic anthropological context of the research, and highlight how the language events within the classroom and community revealed processes of language valuation which lead to distinct multilingual hierarchical structures, which were also seen to be initiated, and reproduced in the grade one class. Through the major output medium of documentary film, the project also aims to open up a broader public conversation about access the lack of access to mother-tongue education globally, which affects 40% of the worlds population. Finally, the presentation will discuss how this film based approach also permitted further parallel research into practice based elements including indigenous language translation and multilingual subtitling (see www.coloursofthealphabet.com for more).


Massimo Ragnedda

The Third Digital Divide: A Weberian approach to rethinking digital inequalities

Drawing on the thoughts of Max Weber, in particular his theory of stratification, the talk engages with the question of whether the digital divide simply extends traditional forms of inequality, or whether it also includes new forms of social exclusion, or perhaps manifests counter-trends that alleviate traditional inequalities whilst constituting new modalities of inequality. With attention to the manner in which social stratification in the digital age is reproduced and transformed online, the author develops an account of stratification as it exists in the digital sphere, advancing the position that, just as in the social sphere, inequalities in the online world go beyond the economic elements of inequality. As such, study of the digital divide should focus not simply on class dynamics or economic matters, but cultural aspects - such as status or prestige - and political aspects - such as group affiliations. Demonstrating the enduring relevance of Weber’s distinctions with regard to social inequality, The Third Digital Divide: A Weberian approach to rethinking digital inequalities explores the ways in which online activities and digital skills vary according to crucial sociological dimensions, explaining these in concrete terms in relation to the dynamics of social class, social status and power.