Critical Potential of Discourse Analysis
The recent “discursive” turn in social and human sciences has not passed without leaving its mark upon our capacity to submit our research objects to critical inquiry.1 Discourse theories based upon the works of Michel Foucault and Ernesto Laclau have not only declared that social subjects’ conceptions of the world reflect their discourse-constituting epistemic horizons, but also rejected the possibility of discourses reflecting any exo-or extra-discursive character or constitution of the world (cf. Foucault, 1991; Laclau and Mouffe, 1990). The discursive constitution of any socially meaningful practice means that not only social, political, religious, and cultural practices, but also scientific practices, such as critical inquiry, are contingent on their capability to rationalize and define discourses. The “hyperdiscursive” (Miklitsch, 1995) constitution of the world is the logical consequence of the post-foundational ontological position that rejects the possibility of retracing the presence and character of particular objects of knowledge to any “ultimate ontological ground” (Sparke, 2005, p. xxxv). This situation, which Marchart (2007a, p. 9) described as the “post-foundational condition”, has considerable implications for the practice of critical inquiry, which is now unmasked as still another contingent and socially contestable claim to truth.
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