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Structural transformations of the South African society. A discourse analysis of mundane reasoning

abstract South African society at large is commonly understood to have undergone and to undergo major structural transformations, among others in the political, economic, educational, and cultural sphere, interconnected with processes of globalization. Social scientific studies of contemporary societies that analyse these processes and the accompanying questions of future social developments often do so only in a macro perspective, either theoretically, using quantitative methods and survey data, or by analysing texts that document high-level measures and legislation. In contrast, this project aims at analysing how “ordinary people” make sense of the current developments on several levels. This mundane perspective is decisive as transformation processes are not “abstract” forces; instead, they rest upon social and discursive practices of individuals.

This project will analyse the discourses that structure mundane reasoning and thus structure societal transformations. It will do so using open, narrative interviews. The methodologically controlled selection of diverse, contrasting biographical constellations will allow distinguishing the relevant discourses and developing a typology thereof. The study focuses on a case of institutional transformation in the Higher Education Sector, pertaining mainly to organisational efforts to craft inclusive diversity and the students’ discursively shaped perceptions thereof and ways of dealing with it. It will thus contribute to an empirically solid understanding of how South Africans deal with the challenges of societal transformations today.
   
keywords discourse analysis; transformation; narrative study of lives; South Africa; qualitative methods; sociology of the local; race; ethnicity; culture
   
partner
type fundamental research project
status ongoing
start of project 2012
end of project 2014
additional informations
topics Sociology of knowledge approach to discourse; transformation; sociology of the local; narrative study of lives; race, ethnicity and culture
methods Narrative-biographical interviews; ethnographic interviews; participant observation; grounded theory; ethnographic semantics
contact Florian Elliker