Science Spain , Valladolid, Friday, May 15 of 2015, 16:31

A national project analyses the variants and conflicts of current social discourse

Researchers from the universities of Valladolid, La Coruña, Jaume I of Castellón, and Murcia, together with various collaborators, are participating in the Constructivist rhetoric: identity discourses (RECDID) project

Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT Researchers from the University of Valladolid, the University of La Coruña, the Universidad Jaume I of Castellón, and the University of Murcia are taking part in a 2013-2016 National R+D+I Plan entitled RECDID (Retórica constructivista: discursos de la identidad or Constructivist rhetoric: identity discourses) for the study of the discourses that are constructed by current society in the face of the challenge of new human and social identities. The project proposes the analysis of the discourses that build three types of social identities in the current socio-political context: urban identities, new personal identities, and the identities related to eco-social alternatives.

The research team of the University of Valladolid consists of José David Pujante and Alfonso Martín, the professors of Literature Theory and Compared Literature who are the main researchers, and also Sara Molpeceres Arnáiz, a lecturer of the Spanish Literature department, and Laura Filardo Llamas, a lecturer of the English Philology department. The group also includes a pre-doctoral researcher who has been contracted by the aid programme for training doctors, together with various members of the work team that are not contractually linked to any research centre.

As the main researcher José David Pujante and the member of the work team Javier Nespereira point out, the ultimate aim is “to fill the void that exists in Spain concerning research on social discourse from the new paradigm of human sciences, shaped by New Rhetoric and the modern Theory of Reasoning".


The project proposes an analysis of the corpus of social discourses that have been generated in Spain up to now (in contrast to the situation in other parts of Europe and the world) and will be generated during the three years of the project in each of the three lines of construction of social identities.
Likewise it aims to reveal the problems deriving from these discursive constructions and their social uses, together with their decisive successes or failures regarding each of the lines of research having a bearing on the social conflicts that are generated and the challenges resolved.


Gender identity and professional identity


The first line of study will involve “gender identity aspects such as the building of gender identities as a hidden conflict, the dialectics between the discourses of new masculinity or feminine identity; and also in professional identity through the difficult relationship between sexual identity and one's profession and the social construction of professions through biographies and autobiographies”, the researchers explain.

On the other hand, as for discourses on urban identities, “we propose to work on the conception of the city as a space (both physical and symbolical) that is constructed through tourist guides, as from this point we can advance towards the notion of cultural management in which both communicative discourses and artistic-literary aspects come together”, they add.

As for the third line of work, eco-social alternatives, research will be carried out on the relationship between discourse and new lifestyle proposals (such as consumption cooperatives, ecologism, degrowth, etc.), counter-power (urban tribes), and new technologies, all of these with ecology as a unifying force.

Finally, the project proposes to analyse as a transverse axis the subject of conflict in each of the three sections, as “it may be present when a new identity is built, whether personal or of the group”.


Methodological approach

As a basis for analysing and explaining the variants and the conflicts of the social discourses of the 21st century, the team of researchers will rely on the complex rhetorical theory of the historical tradition of this discipline reformulated in 20th-century New Rhetoric, with special emphasis given to the theory of reasoning.
“Our theoretical-analytical paradigm for the three discursive lines can be summarised by a term that we have coined: "constructivist rhetoric". In contrast to the strict logicism that prevailed until the mid-20th century to describe human rationality, rhetoric and its little sister reasoning have come into their own as the new paradigm of human sciences. This new paradigm generates the democratisation of human relationships in pluralist societies, with free discussion of social matters and an understanding of the diversity of opinions as normal and healthy for societies and their progress”, Pujante and Nespereira explain.

The team is currently working on a collective volume that is to be published to give as much scientific dissemination as possible to the theoretical-methodological framework of "constructivist rhetoric". In the first place this monograph will expound its theoretical basis and its contribution to the current panorama of the disciplines that are studying discourse and communication from a critical perspective. The remainder of the volume will be devoted to the results of the empirical studies of the research group in each of the three lines of the project, the total budget of which for the three years of activities is 38,720 euros.

A final stage contemplates the transfer of theoretical and methodological knowledge gathered from the three lines of research. In order to do so a workshop has been planned on constructivist rhetoric together with the drawing up of various reports and the organisation of a congress on the transmitting of identity.


Other collaborators

Through its various lines of study the project collaborates with Amnesty International (in the field of sexual identity and educational and labour discrimination) and with eco-social groups and comprehensive Galician and Catalan cooperatives (on eco-social alternative identities). Likewise it collaborates with the Amsterdam Critical Discourse Community of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam on the discourse of eco-social alternatives, with the Bioelectrogenesis renewable energy research group of the University of Alcalá de Henares on the communication of energy alternatives, and with members of the Murcia Health Service on the project on health and medicine discourse and doctor-patient communication on the Internet.