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Discourse, knowledge, materiality, history: Foucault and discourse analysis

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Discourse analysis has come to represent something of a `growth industry' in both research and critical psychology. Despite the apparent indebtedness of many such methods of discourse analysis to Foucault, there exists no strictly Foucauldian method of analysing discourse. Through a close reading of Foucault's `The Order of Discourse' (1981a), this paper re-characterizes the concept of discourse from a firmly Foucauldian perspective. Whilst not arguing against discourse analysis per se, the author indirectly takes issue with erroneous applications of Foucault's conceptualization by clarifying his perspective on what discourse is, and on what `discursive analysis' should entail. This critical presentation of the Foucauldian notion of the discursive will be contrasted with two prominent approaches to discourse analysis in psychology, namely those of Parker (1992) and Potter and Wetherell (1987). Key issues in this regard revolve around the themes of knowledge, materiality and history. By outlining the core components of what Foucault (1981a) terms `the order of discourse', and through the exposition of a four-step `method' of discursive critique, the author propounds an image of what a Foucauldian discursive analytic method may have looked like, should it have ever existed, before specifying exactly why one never did.

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