Reclaiming discursive practices as an analytic focus: Political implications

Carol Bacchi, Jennifer Bonham


This paper has its genesis in concerns about the return to “the real” in social and political theory and analysis.  This trend is linked to a reaction against the “linguistic turn”, on the grounds that an exclusive focus on language undercuts political analysis by refusing to engage with “material reality”.  Foucault and “discourse” are common targets of this critique.  Against this interpretation, the authors direct attention to the analytic and political usefulness of Foucault’s concept of “discursive practices”, which, it argues, has been much misunderstood.  Discursive practices, as developed by Foucault, refers to the practices (or operations) of discourses, meaning knowledge formations, not to linguistic practices or language use.  The focus is on how knowledge is produced through plural and contingent practices across different sites.  Such an approach bridges a symbolic-material distinction and signals the always political nature of “the real”.


Foucault; practices; knowledge; politics; materiality; ontology

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Copyright (c) 2014 Carol Bacchi, Jennifer Bonham

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