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)