Dealing with Difference: Exclusion As a Problem of the Subject or the Discourse?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:47 PM
Room: 302
Distributed Paper
Annette KNAUT , University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany
This paper integrates the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse (Reiner Keller) into the debate on exclusion on grounds of sex, ethnicity or age. The main thesis is that exclusion is not a problem of closed or open structures, of powerless or powerful subjects or of intersectional categories. In contrast, the paper argues that exclusion is mainly a result of the interplay between discourses as structures of power and knowledge and subjects related to an institutional context. Considering empirical results, which stress the relevance and irrelevance of intersectional categories alike, the paper discusses how to deal with difference in institutions, that is how to explain mechanisms of exclusion. We propose a concept, which applies the intersectional perspective to the level of communicative interaction in institutions. Focusing on intersectional categories, the concept regards them as discursive constructions, which are more or less relevant in situations of interaction.

First, the paper discusses the main strands of related theories, which deal with the problem of structure and agency in the field of exclusion from three different perspectives: structures constitute subjects, subjects form structures, and subjects disappear behind the (intersectional) structures. Second, the paper concludes that all three mentioned perspectives miss the decisive point. Neither the focus on powerful subjects nor the dominance of structures of powers nor behind structures veiled subjects can cope with the problem of difference proceeding exclusion. To explain this phenomena a broader perspective is needed, which integrates the interplay of discourses and subjects in the context of institutions. The paper argues that intersectional categories are constructed by discourses. Discourses as structures of knowledge and power, are (re-)produced and transformed in communicative interactions. The main hypothesis is: How institutions deal with difference (and exclusion), based on certain intersectional structures, depends on the institutional context in which communicative interactions takes place.