Lugano Summer School 22-26 August 2016: Discourse Theory and Analysis



Swiss Summer School in Social Science Methods, University of Lugano

Instructor (since 1998- ):

‘Qualitative Data Analysis: Interpretive Research Strategies’, one-week intensive course, 35 hours (1998-2014)

‘Discourse Theory and Analysis’, one-week intensive course, 35 hours (from 2016- )

This course is usually taught every two years, and intended for M.A., PhD, and postdoc researchers as well as established academics from any country. In 1999 it was held at the University of Neuchatel.

Details of 2016 Summer School

Instructor: Prof. Véronique Mottier

Véronique Mottier is Professor in Sociology at the University of Lausanne, and Director of Studies and Fellow in Social and Political Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge. She holds a Ph.D in sociology from the University of Cambridge, and BA and MA degrees in sociology and political science from the University of Geneva. She has taught discourse analysis, social theory, and qualitative methodology at many institutions, including the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis and Collection, the European University Institute in Florence, GIGA/Hamburg, and the Universities of Geneva and Cambridge. Her research interests include interpretative methodologies; Foucauldian discourse & narrative analysis; politics of sexuality and gender; modernity, ‘race’, and identity politics. She has published widely in these areas, and is currently writing a book on the history of French social theory for Harvard University Press.

For full list of publications and webpage, see:,

The teaching assistant for this course is Dr. James Clackson, who is a Reader (and from 1 October, Professor) in Comparative Philology at the University of Cambridge and an expert in socio-linguistics and the linguistic analysis of texts.

 Workshop contents and objectives

The aim of this workshop is to explore the practical application of discourse theory to the analysis of textual data. There are many different versions of discourse analysis; this course focuses specifically on types of discourse analysis which are part of the wider family of interpretative methodologies, and which emphasise the links between language and power. Interpretative methodologies are grounded in a social constructionist perspective on social life, reminding social scientists of the constructed nature of the social ‘facts’ that are studied. Against this backdrop, discourse analysis helps researchers to explore topics such as: the constructions of meanings and identities through which individuals, groups, or organisations make sense of their everyday lives and interactions, and reproduce or challenge their social, organisational and political environments; the meanings and identities produced within policy frames, political activism, bodily practices, interactions with health or welfare professionals, or legal processes; the mechanisms of social exclusion or inclusion within media debates or internet blogs; the discursive reproduction or transformation of social norms around gender, sexuality, disability, migration, racialized identities, ‘old age’ or ‘youth’, etc.

More precisely, the workshop will (1) examine key interpretative methodologies such as interactionnism, ethnomethodology and hermeneutics, and examine how these perspectives translate into concrete research questions and frameworks for ‘doing’ discourse analysis and (2) explore the application of practical techniques of discourse analysis, focusing especially on textual materials (which can include media or internet materials, archival texts, personal diaries, policy and legal texts, organisational and management documents, activist discourses, scientific discourses, or interview transcripts).

Although the lectures, exercises and readings will also address wider methodological issues such as researcher reflexivity and validity concerns, the main emphasis of the workshop is on practical applications of discourse theory and analysis through daily exercises in class. Participants are welcome to bring their own data to the Summer School if they wish to do so, and will have a chance to discuss and work on their own data or their research project more generally in individual tutorials during the week. The working language of this workshop is English (but if your own data are in French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish or English I can read these directly in the original so do bring some).

Basic background reading

Denzin, N. & Y. Lincoln (Eds.)(2011) Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th. edition. London: Sage.
Wetherell, M., Taylor, S. & S. J. Yates (Eds.)(2001). Discourse as Data. A Guide For Analysis. London: Sage.


No particular prerequisites are needed for this course, but you will be sent several preparatory texts to read six weeks before the summer school starts.