Making Meaning Through Discourse

Making Meaning Through Discourse (Chapter 26, page 337)
Two quotes that really stood out to me in this section. They are about defining insanity, and having the power to make or break definitions or ideas of any kind. Griffin describes Foucault's idea about dramatic change in defining people as insane, saying, “People with power drew arbitrary lines between between the normal and the abnormal” (338). In the last line of the section, Griffin brings this idea full circle, “The right to make meaning, can literally be the power to make others crazy” (338). If you have “discursive power,” some public platform or soap box that reaches across many mass media lines, you then have the power to define, and label people. Once that power is abused, it oppresses people and media then perpetuates that oppression and those ideals used to hold them down. Being in the public eye was made possible by the media. Media, as a globally powered avenue and environment can be used by people in power, thus having drastically positive and negative affects on public perception all over the world. This blurred line is created between truth and fiction, or even truth and reality. Griffin states later in the chapter, “truth has prospered by investigating what is, separately from what we think it ought to be. Hall seems to blur that distinction” (343). The problem is, media and people that hold powerful positions in public discourse, start to deem what is as one in the same, as what they think ought to be. Since we are seeing and hearing them more so than someone of lesser power, we are more apt to believe in the “school of thought” that they are teaching.

1 comment:

  1. Current definitions of disability are closely tied with definitions of normal and abnormal, as Foucault pointed out. In a chapter I published on disability metaphors in Communication Yearbook 27, I wrote in a footnote about how disability has been defined in the past. Historically, definitions of disability were often used for legal or religious purposes to punish those who did not conform to dominant norms. Mental illnesses in particular were associated with Satan and evil. The witch hunts that began in the 1400s and lasted for 300 years resulted in the deaths of thousands of persons with disabilities. Even before those times, people generally thought the Devil or some other supernatural force constituted the root of disability. Religious and spiritual beliefs heavily influenced definitions of disability in early human history and actions taken toward persons with disabilities. So well before the media options we have today, persons with disabilities were denied the discursive power to define themselves.