Reading Teun A. van Dijk’s “Principles of critical discourse analysis” I was struck by the attention that the author paid to power relations. In my past experience with discourse analysis (finally, something I have experience with), I have found this focus on power relations to be pertinent.
The following quotation seemed to me to sum up the most important part of the relationship between discourse and power relations: “Critical scholars should not worry about the interests or perspectives of those in power, who are best placed to take care of their own interests anyway. Most male or white scholars have been shown to despise or discredit such partisanship, and thereby show how partisan they are in the first place, e.g. by ignoring, mitigating, excluding or denying inequality” (Dijk 253).
The idea that male scholars would “discredit such partisanship” is one that I personally found true in my own research. In undergrad, I spent a fair amount of time taking English classes in the women’s studies field and researching in the field. Frequently my male classmates (and once in a while male teachers) would claim that my research into the marginalization of female writers was not necessary--they claimed just as van Dijk explains in the above quotation that their was no inequality in the way women writers were treated throughout history. This attempt to ignore an existing inequality, in addition to their frequent attempts to discredit a field like women’s studies illustrates the author’s point about the importance of power relations and critical discourse analysis.