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Situated knowledge in the post-truth era

Keywords: discourse analysis, post-truth, post-critique, postmodernism

 

Postmodernism and situated truths have been named among the creators of the post-truth world in both academic texts and mainstream media. Discourse studies is one of the disciplines associated with situated truths. That label covers, on the one hand, theoretical analyses inspired by the work of Michel Foucault and, on the other hand, the subfield of linguistics that studies contexualised language use. While critics habitually target discourse theory, the present think piece asks whether we could use empirically grounded discourse analysis to study the post-truth condition. The focus is on Johannes Angermüller’s programme of discourse studies, inspired by science and technology studies. For Angermüller, discourse is a situated practice in which members of discourse communities linguistically construct and deconstruct truths. Instead of trying to identify a truth that is not influenced by society he proposes a reflexive study of competing truths. This far critical discourse analysis has sought to unmask truths it considers false. Angermüller believes that we should use the same theoretical and methodological tools to study what we consider true and false. The soft relativism of his approach accepts epistemic relativism, according to which discourses grow out of a specific context, but not the belief that all discourses offer an equally valid representation of reality, as each context possesses criteria for distinguishing facts and opinions. Angermüller’s programme is one solution for using the empirical potential of discourse analysis for the study of the post-truth world.

 

Raili Marling (b. 1973), PhD, University of Tartu, Professor at the Department of English Studies (Lossi 3, 51003 Tartu), raili.marling@ut.ee

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