Understanding the problem of cultural non-participation: Discursive structures, articulatory practice and cultural domination
Stevenson, David John
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Stevenson, D. (2016) Understanding the problem of cultural non-participation: Discursive structures, articulatory practice and cultural domination, no. 354.
This thesis employs a discursive methodology to analyse the policy problem of cultural non-participation. In so doing it seeks to answer the questions of what the problem is, why a problem exists, and what the existence of the problem does 'in the real' (Bacchi, 2009). The study draws on primary data generated in the form of policy texts, speeches and 42 in-depth qualitative interviews with individuals working in or for publicly funded cultural organisations in Scotland. Employing the methodological approach of problematisation (Foucault, 2003a ), the study offers a close analysis of the discursive logics upon which the construction of the problem relies. In so doing it is asserted that the problem construction functions as an articulatory practice (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985) that not only constitutes and organizes social relations but also supports asymmetric relations of power and allows inequality in society to be represented as both inevitable and sensible (Rancière, 2004). Beginning with a discussion of how cultural participation has been constructed as an object of enquiry, the thesis moves on to consider how cultural non-participation is constructed as a problem across the discursive planes of politics and professional practice. Having made visible the discursive logics of the problem construction, the discussion then examines the contingent historical conditions under which the existence of certain subjects, objects, and the intelligible relations between them became possible. Arguing that the Arts should be understood as a discursive institution, it is proposed that the subject identity of the non-participant is not only a necessary part of the discursive logic of this institution, but also provided the ideal boundary object (Star and Griesemer, 1989) around which the legitimacy of the relationship between the Arts and the state could, in part, be based. Drawing on the work of Jacques Rancière (1991; 2004; 2004), it is argued that the manner in which those labelled as non-participants are subjectified obscures their agency and in so doing suppresses their capacity to speak within the field of cultural policy. As such, the field of cultural policy remains characterized by asymmetric relations of power and dominated by those who lay claim to the discursive identity of cultural professionals. The result is state subsidised practices that while doing little to influence individual patterns of behavior, through performing inclusion and equality contribute to the maintenance of a status-quo in which state support will only be provided to individuals who accept the values of those who exercise the most power in the field.