Discourse analysis as genealogy is very easy to understand if we investigate how Darwin transformed our category of species. Darwin’s great revolution was that he did not see the biological species as a god given and unchangeable reality (and so should we not see any of our categories). The species’ were, according to Darwin, nothing but a name biologists had given to a similar population of individuals (Sarasin 2009), some common traits they were perceived to share. So not only were these alleged common traits grouped together by biologists, but further these common traits were also under constant change and all varied in one way or another. So before Darwin’s discovery, species’ were perceived as god given eternal objects. After Darwin’s discovery, species’ were not only just a human classification, but they were also historical processes under change.
So what is then new in this method? Here is an answer from Phillips & Hardy (2002) In fact, traditional methodologies [for instance hermeneutical-phenomenology] often reify categories, making them seem natural and enduring. Discourse analysis, on the other hand, provides a way of analysing the dynamics of social construction that produce these categories and hold the boundaries around them in place.â (p.13). Using a non-traditional method provides a way to see things that have been obscured by the repeated application of traditional methods – all ways of
So discourse analysis reveals how categories and society mutually construct each other in an ever-changing interplay. This continuous process is driven and maintained by conflict and power.
What is of specific interest to detect in this process is that it is often obscure to us: it is like the blind spot in our eyes impossible to see. Because we experience social reality through categories and because our social identity is constructed by those categories, we take them for granted. Here once more Phillips & Hardy: discursive activities help to construct institutions in which power is embedded through the way in which taken-for-granted understandings serve to privilege some actors and disadvantage others.â (27)