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