Thoughts on a discursive constructionist approach (rhetoric all the way down)

“A systematic, data-centered approach, DC [discursive constructionism] refuses to remove the researcher from the analysis. Though the DC approach advocated here supports basing analytical claims on what can be warranted and substantiated in the data, it diverges from canonical CA [conversation analysis] by explicitly making use of extra-discursive insights, including participants’ and the researcher’s own cultural knowledge and interactional histories. This offers an eminently critical perspective and radical challenge to assumptions about social and emotional life and its significance. As a result, it counturtlesters dominant narrative-centered and thematic approaches in L2 interview-based studies by shifting the usual focus from content to construction and action. It embraces creativity and variability of self-representation, and it makes visible speakers’ agentive work and their various interactional competences. (Prior, 2016, p. 17).

Because the researcher is not exempt from this analytical scrutiny, DC is an equalizing approach par excellence. Potter’s (1996) own book is a model of reflexive practice at work. Speaking of ‘an element of self-destruction’, Potter (1996: 9) notes, ‘At the end of the book the ideal reader should be able to turn their gaze back on the book itself and decompose the techniques and tropes that it draws on so freely.’ Thus the processes and rhetoric undergirding our analyses and their representations also become objects for deconstruction (or even ‘destruction’, following Potter). To turn a phrase from the well-known ‘turtle’s back’ myth about the earth’s cosmological origins, we might say that a DC approach reveals the ways in which talk-in-interaction as well as the processes and practices of research are supported by rhetoric ‘all the way down’ (Prior, 2016, p. 51).


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