Discourse Theory - events

Discursive Events. While it can be claimed that 'discourse causes events' - the reasons for decisions, actions and events often have discursive roots, as they can be traced back to discursive constellations whose materialisations they represent, this is debatable, but the opposite is certainly true, that some 'events cause discourse' - they are discursive events. A series of these events 'forms the history' of the discourse strand, and the events may form the themes of the discourse. These discursive events form historic reference points - it is interesting to study how these events are handled and developed by the discourse in general, and also how individual authors deal with the events.

However, some other events do not get emphasised by the media (or politically), so do not become discursive events. For example, Chernobyl WAS a major discursive event, but the similar Harrisburg incident was barely reported at all, and the media even kept it secret for many years. This depends on the respective political power constellation and developments. Debatably, these accidents also derived from discourses between the politicians, scientists and designers in the early stages of the development of these reactors. It is difficult to trace these.

In food and farming, a similar example is the UK outbreak of BSE, which was (eventually) a major news story wordwide - it was a discourse event, and it has formed a point of reference ever since. There may have been similar outbreaks of animal disease which did not become 'big news', and indeed, there may initially have been efforts to try to prevent information about BSE spreading. The BSE outbreak typifies a discursive event which had an impact on a very wide range of other discourses worldwide, and it also typifies a key reference point in a number of debates. Some authors use events like BSE as a shorthand in their discourses.

Similarly, we can describe a concept of Discursive Context. Discourse events can be useful to mark out the contours of the discursive context to which a current strand relates. A synchronic cut through a discourse strand can find its historic roots by looking back at the main discursive events throughout history, and may look at the way the discourse has evolved and changed. A diachronic cut through a discourse would give a cross-section of the range and manner of the discourse being conducted in a particular strand and sub-strands. With BSE, farmers, shopkeepers, scientist and politicians would have different discourses about the outbreak, but they would all be connected (by the media)

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