Document Type

Book Chapter


Discourse analysis is now a well-established interpretive approach in geography to identify the sets of ideas, or discourses, used to make sense of the world within particular social and temporal contexts. Discourse analysis is quite different from other qualitative resea rch methods through its use of the challenging ideas of the French philoso ph er Michel Foucault. Following Foucault, discourse is a mediating lens that brings the world into focus by enabling peo ple to differentiate the validity of statements about the world(s). The goals of this chapter are twofold. The first goal is to outline why Foucau ldian discourse analysis is a fundamental component of geographers' methodological repertoire. The second goal is to provide a methodological template . The chapter begins by outl ining meanings of discourse. Foucault's interest in discourse was to explain how those statements accepted as 'true' are always historically variable, being the outcome of uneven social re lationshi ps, technology, and power. According to Foucau lt, to believe at face value what one hea rs, rea ds, or sees as truth would lead to the serious error of overlooking the social circumstances within which particu lar se ts of ideas are produced, circulated, and main tained. Hence, discourse analysis offers insights into how particular knowledge becomes common sense and dominant, while simultaneously silencing different interpretations of the world. The chapter then outlines a methodological template to conduct discourse analysis. Examples are considered to illustrate why discourse analysis has many benefits for geographical research, particularly projects committed to addressing social and environmental injustice and challenging unequal power relationships.