CFP Class and Discourse

J.E.Richardson J.E.Richardson at LBORO.AC.UK
Tue Oct 30 12:16:41 UTC 2007

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Class and Discourse
A Call for Papers for a special issue of Critical Discourse Studies

Edited by David Machin and John E Richardson


Class and class divisions remain central forces in shaping the ways we live now. Indeed, arguably, in neo-liberal capitalist societies, class remains the primary division of structured social inequality. Massive sections of our populations experience inadequate access to employment, housing, education and health. These inequalities cut across ethnic, 'racial' and gender groups and seem, on one level, to create a shared set of life experiences and responses. Importantly, the working classes also have few opportunities to represent such collective experiences and take an active role in disseminating their own discourses. 


However, little academic ink has been spilt attempting to theorise, analyse and account for discourse as a site of class inequality (though see Luke & Graham, 2005). There has been some sociological analysis of working class cultures, for instance by the Chicago school in the 1930s and later by Basil Bernstein and  Paul Willis. Their work revealed something of the different models of the world held by working class people that create tendencies for them to be discriminated against and fail in middle class controlled institutions. In Cultural Studies, in the 1980s, there was also important work by the likes of Hall and Morley, who accounted for the ways the working classes interacted with dominant ideology in the media, although much of the work that this inspired ended up comfortable with the idea of working class resistance to these ideologies. To make matter worse, academics seemed to lose interest in the working classes in the 1980s. Zygmunt Bauman (1987) has discussed the way that academics have sought out new agents for their projects after the proletariat and poor seemed to divide into something less tangible and the possibility of change became more complex (Gorz 1985). 


In terms of Discourse Analysis, there has been valuable work published on the way that governments have attempted to recontextualise class, and particularly socio-economic inequalities, through discourses of social exclusion (Fairclough 2002, Levitas 1989). Included in this are ideas of the 'stakeholder society' and 'governance from below', which attempt to convince the dispossessed working classes that their 'only hope of repossession lies in [their] allegiance to the structure that dispossessed them' (Lentricchia, 1983: 77). However, such discursive interest in 'exclusion' is often characterised by a recognisably idealistic philosophical approach to discourse, wherein discourse 'creates' social positions and social realities. Such an approach - which often results, in Marx's terms, in analysis directed at 'combating the phrases of this world' - needs to be balanced by an awareness of the structuring power of social and material contexts, and specifically of the 'institutionalised rules accepted and used by the dominant class to control the discursive actions of the dominated' (McKerrow, 1989: 443). 


This special edition seeks papers that theorise, analyse and account for discourse as a site of class inequality. Of course, this means being able to consider what we mean by class, since many of the poorer socioeconomic groups are now part of communities that have never known work.

We welcome articles examining discourse in relation to class structure, class formation, class culture, class consciousness and class action. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following: 


  a.. What can the concept of discourse offer to class analysis? Do discourse analysts merely combat the phrases of the world?
  b.. What role does discourse play in the formation, perpetuation and transformation of class?
  c.. In what ways does class inequality relate to discourses of state, governance, and control? 
  d.. How are inequalities based on social class recontextualised through official discourse? Does elite discourse define the parameters for debate in ways that tend to serve elite interests and sideline those of the poor?
  e.. How does class cut across ethnic and 'racial' group identity? In what ways does class relate to racial projects and formations? 
  f.. How do the middle and upper classes conceptualise and represent their position and role within a class structure? 
  g.. In what ways do the mass media relate to class relations and class conflict? As purveyors of palliative ideological messages, sites of contradiction and conflict, or both? 
  h.. How do cinema films and fictional television genres represent class? 
  i.. What outlets and opportunities do the working classes have to represent themselves and their collective experiences? 
  j.. What are the potentials for 'alternative', citizen and user-generated media? 
  k.. What role, if any, can discourse (and discourse analysis) play in social, political or economic transformation?

Applicants may submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to John Richardson at j.e.richardson at The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 14th January 2008, and accepted authors will be informed no later than two weeks from this date. For accepted articles the deadline for submission is end of May 2008.  

Critical Discourse Studies is an interdisciplinary journal for the social sciences. Its primary aim is to publish critical research that advances our understanding of how discourse figures in social processes, social structures and social change. For further details of the journal's aims, scope and instructions for authors, see here: 

John E Richardson
Dept of Social Sciences
Loughborough University
Epinal Way 
Leicestershire LE11 3TU
Tel +44 01509 228874
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