Discourse(s) in the Social Sciences

On 10th May, postgraduate students and other academics from around the country came together for an interdisciplinary conference tackling discourse in a variety of thematic and methodological ways.

Organised by Gillian Loomes, Rosie Smith and Germaine Stockbridge in the Department of Sociology at York, the conference gave the opportunity for those in their early career to present both past and prospective research and gain supportive feedback on their work. Delegates were encouraged to live tweet with #Discourses2016 about the event and as a result insights continued post-conference as we became engaged in (and troubled by) discourses which embody cultural values such as the gendered expectations of body hair removal.

The conference certainly lived up to the grandeur of the venue as the research papers highlighted the multitude of topics which encompass discourse and the complexities in pinpointing its character. Upon tying these threads together, it seems that the underlying theme of the day was that discourse is a means by which marginalised identities may be sustained. But, that the social sciences can challenge the natural order which discourse often represents.

A panel debate covering questions about methods in practice and what sociologists can offer, proved a lively end to the day which stimulated the importance of creative contributions. It was discussed that researchers must break away from their methodological preferences and consider practice to be like discourse as part of the process of producing meaning and constituting knowledge.

Professor Charles Antaki enthused the audience regardless of their love or loath of conversation analysis about what people say and do in talk.