Dissertation Information for Darrin Hicks
MPACT Status: Incomplete - Not_Inspected
Title: The politics of talk: A constitutive account of context
Abstract: In this dissertation, I argue that contexts are created, maintained, and transformed in and through communicative action. In Chapter One, I set out the purposes and scope of the inquiry. In Chapter Two, I review the standard treatment of context in communication theory and research and argue that it can be traced to an instrumentalist perspective on communication. I conclude that an instrumentalist understanding of context as a static container external to and determinative of communicative action can not explain how identities, knowledge, settings, and situations are produced and reproduced in communicative encounters, and hence is seriously flawed. In Chapter Three I set out an alternative account of context that is grounded in a constitutive conceptualization of communication. I argue that this account of context as a dynamic process that regulates the communicative conduct of interlocutors enables the generation of more specific, relevant, and consequential descriptions of the ways identities, knowledge, settings, and situations are brought to life in and through talk. In Chapters Four and Five, I focus on the political dimensions of context. I look to the ways that people manipulate talk to create contexts that delegitimize and dismiss certain ways of speaking and, therefore, block particular individuals and groups from fully and equally participating in the processes of jointly constructing their identities and the institutional spaces they inhabit. I also look to the methods people use to challenge and revise outmoded and oppressive contexts. In Chapter Four, I focus on workplace interactions. I examine the ways that a hostile working environment (a type of sexual harassment) is produced and reproduced via communicative conduct. In Chapter Five, I move from the workplace to a consideration of public forums. I discuss proposals to mediate political disagreement by establishing discursive contexts that tightly constrain the form and content of public debate and discussion.
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