Publication Details

This article was originally published as Leitch, S & Davenport, S, Strategic ambiguity as a discourse practice: the role of keywords in the discourse on sustainable biotechnology, Discourse Studies, 9(1), 2007, 43-61.


In this article we examined the ways in which strategic ambiguity (Eisenberg, 1984) in the use of keywords (Williams, 1976/1983) served an enabling function within a discourse marked by conflict and ideological divisions. Our analysis focused on the intertextual relationships between five documents intended by the Government to guide the development of biotechnology in New Zealand. Through our analysis we identified ‘sustainability’ as a keyword and three major roles for the deployment of the discourse strategy of strategic ambiguity in the use of this keyword. First, strategic ambiguity lent an internal and intertextual coherence to the texts (albeit superficial). Second, it allowed multiple perspectives and objectives to co-exist. Third, strategic ambiguity facilitated the participation of discourse actors who subscribed to ideologies that were more or less incommensurable.



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