In dates 4-6 July 2018, ESR 2 Tommaso Trillò joined a vibrant community of discourse scholars at the 7th conference of the CADAAD network (Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines). CADAAD is an open community of scholars that conduct discourse research through a critical lens and that wish for their work to be socially engaged and productive of social change. CADAAD brings together researchers from all disciplines in the social sciences and humanities and runs biannual conferences that so far took place every even year since 2006. This year’s conference was hosted by the University of Aalborg, Denmark.
The conference featured excellent contributions by renowned scholars in discourse studies. The event was opened with a plenary session in which Anabella Carvalho (University of Minho, Portugal) presented her latest research on ‘climate discourse’ in the age of ‘post-politics’. In her speech, Carvalho pointed out that the climate change discourse tends to be depoliticized through the use of technical language and utilitarian arguments, ultimately concealing the deeply political character of the issue at stake.
In a second plenary session, Martin Reisigl (University of Vienna, Austria) presented his work-in-progress research on deliberative discourses. Making reference to xenophobic discourses in the wake of the so-called migration crisis, Reisigl argued that critical discourse studies have so far focused on exposing the fallacies in xenophobic and nationalistic arguments. In his view, this sort of criticism is too limited: discourse scholars should go one step further and ground their critique in a second order set of rules for deliberation; norms that he is trying to encapsulate in what he terms ‘a model of problem-solving deliberation’.
David Machin (Örebro University, Sweden) opened the second day of the conference with a plenary lecture on multimodal critical discourse analysis. In his later work, Machin attempts to make sense of the kaleidoscope of approaches in the field. The final aim of this endeavor is the production a clearly identifiable methodological toolkit for systematic research that is however consistent with the ethos of critical discourse studies.
The last day of the conference featured two more plenary speakers. In the morning,
William Walters (Carleton University, Canada) spoke as ‘a friendly neighbor to critical discourse studies’ from the perspective of political sciences. Adopting a Foucaultian approach to the issue of secrecy and securitization, Williams presented his research on the multilayered notion of ‘secrecy’ as manifest in the case of top secret weapons research site called Orford Ness in England.
In the afternoon, Caroline Tagg (The Open University, UK). addressed the role of Facebook as a space for public discourse with particular emphasis on the polarization of political conversation on Facebook and the spread of false information therein. Tagg argued that the widespread assumption that Facebook algorithms ‘isolate’ groups of users sharing the same views, making it easier for fake news to go unchallenged, is actually misguided. Users make very deliberate choices in determining how they engage with content on Facebook, choices that have a lot to do with maintaining and negotiating their social relationships with other users who happen to be their friends. In this context, being exposed (or not) to fake news and challenging their unfounded character is a phenomenon that depends on algorithms as much as it depends on social relationships among users.
During the first day of the conference, Trillò presented part of his doctoral research comparing the narratives that LGBTI umbrella organizations advance via their Twitter accounts. Trillò argued that these groups attempt to balance short term political objectives with longer-term visions of what ‘equality’ would entail. This negotiation mostly results in an overall narrative that aims at expanding the mainstream in order for it to be ever more inclusive towards sexual minorities.
Trillò already attended the previous edition of the CADAAD conference in Catania, Italy, in 2016, just a few months after starting his tenure as an ESR in the GRACE Project. Joining again the CADAAD community two years down the line was a particularly fruitful opportunity to gather feedback on the trajectory of his research, now entering the writing up phase.