Session: Critical Discourse Analysis: Analyzing Subjectivity across Themes of Race, Culture, and Migration (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

135 Critical Discourse Analysis: Analyzing Subjectivity across Themes of Race, Culture, and Migration

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 1:15 PM-2:15 PM
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Symposium Organizer:
Claire Willey-Sthapit, MSSW, University of Washington
Sarah Jen, University of Kansas
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) allows researchers to examine the creation and legitimization of dominant knowledges pertaining to race, culture, and migration. Both within the United States and globally, conditions of colonization and neocolonization have created situations in which powerful actors and institutions, often operating out of wealthy countries in the West, have held disproportionate power to frame social problems and solutions. CDA offers a unique approach which makes visible assumed knowledges and the values and norms embedded within them. This symposium demonstrates the utility of CDA methods to illuminate how the language used by researchers and policy-makers can serve to either support or resist dominant narratives in social welfare practice and policy. The three included projects further illustrate that making visible the common-sense assumptions in which social welfare policy and practice are grounded, constitutes an important social justice intervention.

Each paper will interrogate how the discourses circulated by researchers and policy makers supports existing discursive hierarchies across themes of race, culture, and migration. Each paper will also focus on and highlight a particular methodological tool or concept related to analyses of subjectivity within discourse. First, Kim will present on the discourses found in mental health disparities research and describe how these discourses marginalize Asian American perspectives in relation to Western/white normative discourses on mental disorders and mental health service utilization. Kim presents cultural reflexivity not only as an essential and neglected component of mental health research, but also as a useful methodological lens through which to examine discursive constructions of marginalized mental health care consumers. Second, Willey-Sthapit will present an analysis of the construction of culture in international development research publications about domestic violence in Nepal. Her investigation revealed a dominant essentialist narrative that explains violence as a mere carryover of traditional Nepali culture. Counters to this dominant discourse, most often cited by first-authors located in Nepal, illustrated how cultural essentialism constrains knowledge about domestic violence, the subjectivities available to address violence, and intervention strategies. Finally, Gonzalez Benson will present an analysis of 'rights-talk' in U.S. refugee policy Senate testimonies related to the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980. Her finding that "human rights" discourse was only evoked in discussions of international aspects of the policy, but that it was quickly replaced by market-based discourses in the context of domestic policies, demonstrates how the United States asserted international legitimacy through the promotion of human rights, but effectively undercut refugees' rights-based claims once they arrived. Her study highlights the utility of CDA and analyses of subjectivity for policy analysis and transformation.

Attendees will be invited to ask questions and reflect on similarities and distinctions between these three varied uses of critical discursive theory and methods. They will leave with a sense of the utility of CDA as a social justice intervention that can recognize, resist, and transform the terms of policy and practice laid out by society’s already powerful groups.

* noted as presenting author
Entrenched, Unrelenting, Unsettled: Essentializing Discourses of Culture in International Development Research about Domestic Violence in Nepal
Claire Willey-Sthapit, MSSW, University of Washington; Taryn Lindhorst, PhD, University of Washington; Susan Kemp, PHD, University of Washington
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