Dissertation Abstracts

Critical Discourse Analysis of Interviews with Portuguese Scientists: Representation and Legitimation of Scientific Knowledge and its Specialties

Author: Alexandre, Marta F., martafilipealexandre@gmail.com
Department: English Studies Departmentv - Languages and Literatures Area
University: University of Lisbon, Portugal
Supervisor: Carlos A. M. Gouveia
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: scientific knowledge , representation , legitimation , power relations
Areas of Research: Language and Society


We live a particular historical moment: a moment of new possibilities of thinking and doing, especially if we see it as (and wish it to be) the end of the Cartesian paradigm.
Metonymic reason provides an indolent way of dividing knowledge and its knowers that not only conceives scientific knowledge as being the truest knowledge about the world, but also makes it play a very specific role in society and in people’s lives.
Metonymic reason can be seen in the representation of scientific knowledge as the great vision of the world, as a vision that is superior to all other kinds of knowledge produced by men.
This thesis highlights the effect of metonymic reason inside scientific knowledge. That is to say, it makes visible the social and epistemological differentiation of the sciences and their truth projects. For this purpose, a critical analysis of discursive material was conducted using research interviews with thirty Portuguese scientists from five different scientific disciplines: biology, physics, computer science, linguistics, and psychology.
Systemic-Functional Linguistics as well as categories from Critical Discourse Analysis were used to map the meanings that create the discursive representations of knowledge. In order to map and analyse the ways by which knowers position themselves in relation to others, categories from Legitimation Code Theory and from Ideology Theory were used.
First, we describe a typology of the representations of the scientific knower and of scientific knowledge – the scientist-pioneer, the scientist-problem-solver, and the scientist-educator. Each one of these representations is grounded in different ideological presumptions, as well as opposition lines between scientists and other actors of the social worlds of science. Second, we describe a typology of the representations of sciences’ diversity – the constellation of vertical discourse, of basic knowledge, of inequality, and of complementarity. Each one of these constellations comprehends the legitimation of different kinds of scientific knowledge and corresponds to distinct positions in the dynamic of power relations.
This research identified evidence of unequal power relations within the internal diversity of sciences and within the diversity of types of knowledge, thus confirming the relevance of Critical Discourse Analysis applied to the scientific community in general and scientists in particular. This analysis make it possible to highlight the hegemony of exact sciences over other types of science and identify the premises on which this hegemony is based. At the same time, a differentiation emerged, more or less harmonious, between computer science and other scientific areas, alongside a fighting dynamic of those producing basic scientific knowledge against the social valorization of more applied forms of knowledge, and, finally, voices of resistance in linguistics and psychology.