John Martin

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Discourse Image

Language, Literacy, and Culture (Fall 2004)

The language of a community is larger than a set of vocabulary words. It involves the action of presentation and delivery. These must be learned and coordinated. One's usage of this Discourse is judged by the community one inhabits. Knowledge and use of the Discourse determines literacy, which in turn often determines acceptance in the community. There are other membership-determining factors depending on the community. For example, a pauper who knows the Discourse of the Millionaire's Club probably won't make it in the door, but then part of the Discourse might include the actual use of cash or credit, in which case one could argue that the pauper does not have the Discourse mastered.

Bending Discourse

There are times when established, or semi-established, members of a group or community use their social capital to broaden the discourse and practice of the group in order to "make an exception for" a new member, or an expansion of acceptable discourses or practices. I call this bending Discourse. It is a form of subversion or propaganda that can be applied by members at all levels. The success or failure in doing so may be determined in part by the movements and Discourses of the communities around them, the cleverness of their strategy, their social capital, or the luck of catching the wave at the right moment.

I wrote more about bending Discourse for another class, and linked it to regimes of truth, normativity, performativity, hybridity, and double-consciousness.