Pluralistic Qualitative Research into Male Eating Disorders

On the ISCHP mailing list, a fellow member shared a link to a workshop he’d done. He had delivered a highly interactive workshop on Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA). Given the sheer amount of reading I did on methods related to Foucault’s work during my doctorate, I was sceptical, I must admit. I struggle with some central tenets of Foucault’s work on discourse and power. His insistence that power is relational and not fixed is all well and good, but it could be extrapolated from this that the lack of power that marginalised people experience(d) is somehow nothing but shifting forces, where all they’re up against is the dominance of language that shapes practices.

I refuse to believe that things are quite so simplistic, and purely relational. (Neither did he, in fact, I should add but this suffices here to account for some rudimentary misgiving.) Let’s face it, if power is not fixed, men did a darn good job of growing up with it as a ‘fixed’ privilege for years! I also struggled with some of the biographical information I knew of him, and his prosaic, oft-meandering, post-modernist style – something that I feel did the cause of sociology and social research no favours for years.

This said, I had been giving some thought to ‘playing’ with (F)DA as one of the analysis methods to be employed as part of my new project approved last year. As it transpired, watching Dr Owen’s session clinched it more than any of my own readings. He did such a great job of setting a juicy example for the participants to work with, of explaining the steps in an accessible and meaningful way, that I watched it again. I was set.

I’m going to include it in my plural approach to analysis. I know there’s many other instructional videos out there (I checked), I’m simply saying that happening upon this one helped me go from ‘maybe’ to ‘yes – bring it on’.

So, many thanks are due to Dr Craig Owen (St Mary’s University, London) for his A Theoretical and Hands-on Introduction to Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. And I finally have my third analytical method: let the analysis commence.