White Spaces Network

Discourse analytical approaches towards uncovering power relations, with a specific focus on race/whiteness

24 January 2011
Organized by PGR students at the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, Geneva, Queen Mary, Lausanne and the London School of Economics. Participants from the UK, France, Switzerland, Norway, USA, Finland, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Greece, Germany and Italy.


Out of the Postgraduate Research conference New Territories in Critical Whiteness Studies (August 2010, University of Leeds) grew a  PGR network of students engaged in critical whiteness studies. This  “peer-review” seminar took place on 24 January 2011, between 7pm – 8.30pm GMT. The event was open to  students/researchers outside of the U.K. Four PhD candidates presented part of their work, after each of which the  presenters responded to questions from attendants.


What can Sexual Difference theories do for Critical Whiteness studies?

Linda Lund Pedersen
PhD Candidate
Gender Institute, LSE

Sexual difference theory contest discourses on gender equality and in particular the instrumentalization of gender equality by the liberal, conservatives and nationalistic politicians to introduce a prohibition on Muslim veiling and strict immigration legislation/politics. Further, to rethink and reconsider the possibilities within otherness as an ethics is also to turn away from the strand of theory that focuses on ‘ethnic minorities’ as part of an antiracist discourse. I think this discourse does not allow us to arrest the obstacles that are embedded in the normative majority about the binary division between ‘us-them’/ self-other. As Nirmal Puwar has theorized on institutional racism and whiteness,“The majority of antiracist initiatives still, however, focus on ‘ethnic minorities’. Much of the public discourse of equal opportunities continues to be framed in terms of looking at ethnic ‘others’” (Puwar, 2004a: 135 emphasis added).I will question this approach in line with Puwar’s argumentation about the ‘ethnic other’ as needed to be looked at in the attempt to find the ‘solution’ to the problem of diversity. Instead of looking at the ethnic other, I will challenge current political/public discourses through the question, that Irigaray (2004/1984), and later Puwar – Inspired by Irigaray – (2004a, Puwar, 2004b) have aforementioned; how can the ‘other’ exist without transforming into same.

The use of critical discourse analysis for uncovering commodification processes of migrant labour

Barbara Samaluk
PhD Candidate
Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity BUSMAN, Queen Mary, University of London

This presentation will explore the methodology that I am using for my PhD research project, which is focusing on commodification processes of migrant labour by exploring the dialectical relationship between structure and agency through discursive and extra discursive events. Its specific focus lies in uncovering how (embodied) cultural and other symbolic capital is being appropriated in the UK labour market with regard to migrant workers from Central and Eastern European countries and what are its effects. The methodology for this research project has been devised by adapting and operationalising Bourdieu’s (1992; 2005) general theory that offers a conceptual trinity of field, habitus and capital in accordance with feminist scholars (Adkins 2004; Anthias 2001; Frankenberg 1993; McCall 1992) and in combination with critical realists’ theoretical and methodological approaches to critical discourse analysis (Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999; Jessop 2004; Layder 1997). As such it aims to uncover racialisation processes and multiple power relations that are hidden behind ‘meritocratic’ capitalist system as well as to recognise and give voice to resistance discourses and transformation practices that arise from the symbolic positioning.

Analysing whiteness empirically

Manuela Honegger
PhD Candidate
University of Lausanne

In this presentation I raise the question: How can whiteness be analysed empirically as a discourse? Which methodology can account for whiteness as produced by contextual power relations? As a changing discursive categorisation processes? And as involving both agency and institutionalised interpretative repertoire? First, I theoretically define whiteness in order to delimitate the discourse that is analysed. Second, I describe the methodological approach used in my PhD on racism and whiteness in social welfare institutions in Switzerland. Unpacking these theoretical and methodological questions allow us to better compare empirical studies on whiteness between different historical contexts and increases systemacity in the field of discourse analysis.

Uncovering racialized power relations in public controversies: towards an analysis of argumentative logics

Noémi Michel
PhD Candidate
Department of Political Science University of Geneva

In this presentation, I aim to grasp the notion of “racialised power relations” from a poststructuralist discourse analytical perspective. I discuss and illustrate two discourse analytical strategies that I mobilise in my PhD research with the aim of uncovering racialised power relations in the contexts of Swiss and French public debates. The first strategy consists of analysing the discursive construction of public controversies considered as crucial moments during which power relations are put in question but are also re-asserted. The second strategy consists of analysing the construction and struggle between the argumentative logics that are articulated within these public controversies.


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