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Discourse and Geography

  • By: Lakshman Yapa
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Discourse is a particular claim about the relationship between words and the things they represent. Discourse theory began with Michel Foucault, the famous French philosopher, as a critique of the Enlightenment idea that science and scientific investigation—using observation, measurement, and hypothesis testing—act as a mirror to the world, thus providing us rational objective truth about the world. Discourse theory rejects the claim that science offers us objective knowledge of the world and claims instead that all objects—while certainly real in a material sense—are also discursive constructions. Discourse theory claims that an object cannot be understood as a mere object but can only be understood in context, that is, in relation to the conversations, or discourses, that surround it. Imagine a car: It is in one ...

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