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Studying social power in textual data: combining tools for analyzing meaning and positioning

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posted on 06.03.2021, 09:44 by Alexandra Bogren
Texts are language excerpts produced from specific points of view; they communicate specific worldviews and values. This implies that social science research on power in texts can benefit from an analysis of the perspective from which a story is presented. Nevertheless, discussion of concrete tools for doing this at the level of practical analysis is uncommon. In this article, I discuss an approach that takes account of positioning at two different levels of analysis: the position from which a story is told and positioning within a story. My central argument is that it is advantageous to combine tools for analyzing positioning with tools for analyzing meaning because this allows for a more detailed analysis of social power in texts and for a more detailed description of the analytical process. I use empirical examples from a project on Swedish newspaper debate on gender and alcohol in 1979 and 1995 as illustrations. Although the analytical tools I demonstrate were assembled to study gender, I argue that they are useful in analyzing other dimensions of social power as well, and that they can inform part of the process of intersectional analysis.


This research is financed by the Swedish council for working life and social research (FAS) and by the Alcohol research council of the Swedish alcohol retailing monopoly (SRA).


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Studying social power in textual data: combining tools for analyzing meaning and positioning

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310 Sociologiska institutionen | Department of Sociology

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The Department of Sociology Working Paper Series