Accepted paper:

Discourse analysis skills for critical and creative thinking about development


Des Gasper (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Paper short abstract:

'Critical thinking' requires skills; thinking about development requires skills also in giving attention, listening, caring, constructing, and cooperating. The paper looks at skills gains through learning and doing discourse analysis, based on 30 years experience with development studies students.

Paper long abstract:

Several forms of discourse analysis are directly accessible and useful for international development studies students, and can contribute in important skill areas, including for work that is more critical, more constructive and more value-sensitive. Relevant strands include: argumentation analysis, for better representation, evaluation and amendment of argument systems (e.g., Apthorpe & Gasper, 'Arguing Development Policy', Routledge 2014); category- and labelling analysis, for awareness of choices in delineating and characterizing social groups (e.g., Moncrieffe & Eyben, 'The Power of Labelling', Earthscan 2007); content analysis to identify chosen vocabularies and topics, and those omitted (e.g., Moretti & Pestre, 'Bankspeak', New Left Review 2015); metaphor analysis, for probing tacit frames of reference and imagination (e.g. Kornprobst, 'Metaphors of Globalization', Palgrave 2008); narrative analysis, for examining how a past and/or prospective story is constructed in regard to the proffered cast of characters (e.g., Roe, 'Except-Africa', Transaction, 1999); and rhetoric analysis of how the strands are interwoven to construct, project and 'sell' an interpretation and programme (e.g., Gasper, 'Kofi Annan's Rhetorical Strategy', AJR, 2011). Discourse analysis has sometimes acquired a negative reputation in development studies, seen as too difficult, and/or preoccupied with generalized theory rather than case realities or with only criticism and not construction, and/or as based only on finding confirmatory instances rather than on comprehensive coverage. All of these objections can be answered. The paper discusses how these types of discourse analysis may be used in development studies teaching and student research.

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"We want skills! You'll get critical thinking!" - Opening up international development education