Social constructionism is a theory of reality and knowledge. Centered on two fundamental questions—(1) What is real? and (2) How is one to know?—social constructionism proposes that what people recognize as real and what they know—with some degree of certainty—in or about that reality is an effect of social interactions. Moreover, people’s understanding of what constitutes the social world is historically contingent and socially relative. Reality, in other words, is not an objective or fixed “given.” Rather, it is a construct that is bound by the specifics of cultural and social location, by the outcomes of historical negotiations over meanings and understandings of the social world, and thus by power relations.

This entry focuses on the significance of discourse in the construction of social realities. It ...

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