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Title: Disputes of offence : making sense of the discursive construction of political correctness
Authors: Fearon, Clare
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis explores how Political Correctness (PC) is discursively constructed and has emerged in contemporary society as a cultural signifier for a new politics of language and identity. The thesis begins by arguing that the literature has not adequately reconciled the various tensions which continue to underlie how PC is defined and understood. In doing so it examines how the celebration and prevalence of anti-PC rhetoric has emerged alongside our increasing intolerance of ‘politically incorrect’ forms of discourse (such as racist or homophobic language). It also considers why varying levels of PC might be present (and absent) within different levels of discourse. The project uses data from popular cultural and media sources which draw upon the multifarious and increasingly participatory nature of our public domain. The data sources include newspaper articles and editorials; a parliamentary debate; the social media site Twitter; popular comedy and political cartoons. In order to conduct a socio-cultural analysis, the research incorporates the use of various discourse and visual analytical approaches including Bakhtinian dialogism; Bourdieu’s capital theory; Barthesian semiology and Hall’s representational analysis. The thesis argues that our preoccupation with disputes of offence (or ‘PC disputes’) has acquired an increasingly individualised dimension. It suggests that our concern with group rights and identity politics may overshadow how the giving or taking of offence is also attached to the diverse ways in which individual identity is felt and experienced. In particular, it argues that the assertion of offence is increasingly grounded in the hurt offence is felt to cause to the beliefs which form our sense of self-hood or personal identity. The project maintains that disputes of offence relating to wider inequalities (like racism or sexism) are more usefully understood through exploration and recognition of both their broader and individualised contexts.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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