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Latest update: November 27, 2000
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Definition of Dominant Discourse

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On Monday, November 27, 2000, Kiesha Cheatham wrote:

Hi Jeanne, It's Kiesha Cheatham. In response to the term "Dominant Discourse:" Although in class and via the site, you have discussed and provided numerous examples of what the term meant, I still didn't get it. The definition you provided or, from what I understood was: "Dominant discourse is the ability in decision making to see something in a different way." Although this definition is pretty straight forward and simple, I couldn't decipher it's meaning. Per our class discussion 11-8-00 regarding the presidential election, you gave an example of "dominant discourse" as: when the commentators said that because of Nader, Gore may have lost the race. With that example I couldn't decipher between fact or opinion. Another good example given of "dominant discourse" was in our class discussion on your San Francisco trip and the "Yanomani" conference and the panel, basically how one of the panelists excoriated Patrick Tierney in reference to his book.

From what I understand, in my opinion, I can relate "dominant discourse" to the recount in the state of Florida. This is clearly an example of two groups of people looking at the same thing, but from a different perspective, and both wanting it to be an advantage to them. The Democrats view the recounting as a way of being fair based on the fact that the votes were not well defined. As for the Republicans, they feel it is a way for the democrats to unjustly finagle the votes. The ability in decision making to see something in a different way. "Jeanne I think I've finally got it!" Sorry it took me so long! Kiesha

On Monday, November 27, jeanne responded:

Good comment, Kiesha. You've given me wonderful, precise examples to work with, and you've specified your confusion very well. You get an "A" for discourse, but you've got the definition precisely the opposite of what it should be! Nonetheless, it's pretty good critical thinking. Good for you!

Let's see if I can explain it. This will have to be fast. We'll talk about it more in class.



On Wednesday, November 29, 2000, Samara wrote:

Jeanne I am trying to understand "Dominant Discourse." I am currently working with troubled teens. I conduct group studying sessions. I was wondering if I was engaging in dominant discourse during the study sessions at the shelter?

During these study sessions we discuss different school subjects. Because I am a part of the staff that postion gives me authority over the clients at the shelter. I was wondering if my example defines "Dominant Discourse."

On Friday, December 1, 2000, jeanne responded:

Samara, maybe the above explanation will help. Read Kiesha's explanation and my response. Then, let's try to figure out what else you need to give me so that I can see that you have the concept straight.

First, you are trying to apply the concept in your work environment. That's a good idea. Second, you are asking yourself whether in fact you are engaging in dominant discourse yourself, to the disadvantage of your young charges. Such self-reflexive openness to listening in good faith is one of the foundations of effective inclusion of the Other. So I would give you a "B-" for the insight you have shown in choosing your report of learning.

Now, what will you need to do to raise that grade? First of all, you haven't given me a definition of dominant discourse. I hope that some of the material referred to here will help you. Try explaining discourse as good faith exchange of validity claims and concepts. Then try explaining dominant. You actually did that: Because I am a part of the staff that postion gives me authority over the clients at the shelter. So I think I should revise that grade to a "B". Yes you are a part of the sovereign authority of the institution, and thus you represent the dominant discourse. Very perceptive.

For an "A" you would need to give me a brief, but detailed, narrative of something you tried to help your charges with. A question they asked you tried to answer, an exchange with them. See if you can identify the "dominant discourse" response, and then see if your awareness of listening to the Other has helped you to transform that discourse and provide your charges with a sense of caring and mutuality. It's OK to ask them to help you.

Good job, Samara. You helped me see that as I go through these analyses I sometimes realize that I did miss a point or two. And it's OK to use our professional workshops to answer these additional questions orally. jeanne