Can We Demarcate the Future? a Discourse Analysis of the Future Studying Congressional Hearings in the US

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:03
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Felix KRAWATZEK, University of Oxford (Nuffield College & Department of Politics), United Kingdom
It is often difficult to draw a line between “present” and “future” when studying statements in political discourse. We might all agree that complex global discursive structures profoundly shape our future but it is challenging to undertake empirical research that determines the power of such competing discursive structures and evaluates which ideas they convey. The proposed paper ventures this unexplored territory with a new method of discourse analysis to study the manifestation of transnational discursive structures about the future in congressional hearings in the US. If we want to come to grips with the repercussions of global structures, a promising research strategy is to focus on a narrow case and to simultaneously increase our attention for implicit and explicit references to transnational orders.

The guiding hypothesis of the paper is that global futures that could be expressed during the 109th (2005-7) and 110th (2007-9) US Congress differed sharply. Both sessions of the congress overlapped with George W. Bush’s second term as President but the former knew a Republican majority whereas the Democrats dominated the latter. Previous research suggests that this alteration shifted debates within Congress and, equally important, gave space to new members of civil and economic society. Congressional hearings are a key element of the American political discursive landscape as they represent a forum for different policy actors to share their positions which informs political decision making.

The methodological approach developed in this paper combines qualitative content analysis and network analysis. Together, these methods provide for an approach to discourse analysis which makes it possible to evaluate the positions of actors and their claims within an epistemic community. Undertaking this analysis across time furthermore unravels how the structure of these communities has evolved over the period of a critical political shift in the composition of Congress.