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ICS researcher Jan Zienkowski participates in an international meeting on critical analysis of the speech

This discipline analyzes how the speech refers to social Structures and power relationships

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10/10/14 17:21

Jan Zienkowski, researcher of the project 'Public discourse ' of the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra, participated in the CDA 20+ symposium, an internationalmeeting organized at the University of Amsterdam by the Amsterdam Critical Discourse Community (ACDC) and the group of research Institutional Discourse of the University of Amsterdam.

During the meeting, scholars from three generations discussed the historical development and the new challenges of this discipline, which analyzes how speech refers to social Structures and power relations, covering aspects such as social inequalities, domination, injustice or attention of minorities.

The participants came from academic centers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom. Among them were Teun van Dijk, Norman Fairclough, Günther Kress, Theo van Leeuwen and Ruth Wodak, who launched CDA (Critical Discourse Analysis) in 1992.

As Jan Zienkowski explained, the origin of this academic current dates back to the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, in a context in which student protests focused on criticism against capitalism. During the meeting held in Amsterdam, the road travelled since then was analyzed and the question was raised whether, in the face of the new changes that society has undergone (globalization, new technologies...), critical speech specialists should address new issues, use a new methodology and engage in more in-depth interdisciplinary exchanges focusing on research programs rather than projects. Most of the discussions revolved around the changing internship of criticism and engagement.

Contribute to the democratic discussion

Jan Zienkowski pointed out that one of the main issues addressed during the meeting was the concern that researchers should contribute to the democratic discussion and not be limited only to academic impact in terms of scientific output.

As he assured, these academics are concerned that the increasing complexity of the bureaucratic processes and the way of evaluating research in universities - largely derived from the strong skill among them - makes it increasingly difficult to put on internship this vocation to stimulate citizens to be more aware of the problems of their environment, since this task is performed especially outside the ordinary academic work.

Likewise, the passage from 'neoliberalism' to 'managerialism' was discussed: management and bureaucracy play a leading role in university life today, when they should be a support to the task professor and research. 

"The student population has changed considerably over time. For example, how can a critique of sexism be developed if students do not experience the problem as such? As the bulk of this segment is made up of people from class average , the nature and function of critique seems to have altered the minds of many students. And how does one critique critiques uttered by subordinate actors and groups?" asks researcher.

In that sense, he indicated that during the discussion several responses were suggested: "On the one hand, Norman Fairclough and other participants argued that critical speech analysts should return to a systematic critique of capitalism in the current neoliberal context. Teun Van Dijck stressed that the topic of war was underdeveloped in the field of programs of study of speech".

On the other hand, he referred to the position of Ruth Wodak, "who pointed out that issues related to gender and other classic themes of this discipline have not disappeared from society. She emphasized that the decades of analysis of the critical speech have not radically changed the world. Thus, she was in favor of not abandoning issues such as sexism and racism because these phenomena still affect the lives of a large issue of people. In this sense, she agreed with Theo Van Leeuwen, who stressed that critical speech researchers should be as explicit as possible about the social dimensions of their research".

Getting out of the academic comfort zone

"In a similar vein," he continued, " Wodak warned of the danger that the analysis of the critical speech becomes too abstract and specialized. He argued that the critique of capitalism is sound, although how it works locally needs to be investigated. He asserted that socially engaged academics should not have too many illusions about their power: instead, they should ally themselves with organizations and actors who share CDA's critical diary in concrete respects. Another way for researchers to get out of the comfort zone could be, she said, to involve crossing genres, so that they are not limited to writing academic texts".

From agreement with Jan Zienkowski, as the discussions continued "it became more apparent that the field of CDA does not insulate itself from the social developments it seeks to critique. Critique requires one to address questions of inequalities and domination in a reflexive way." Thus, he concluded that many of the contributions of meeting were marked by "a concern for the declining role of the academic as a public intellectual and for his or her commitment to work for a fully democratic society."