Funding body: Department of Foreign Affairs.
Researcher: Carlos Bruen, Equality Studies Centre, UCD.
Context, Aims and Objectives of Project: Development education seeks to inform the public of the factors that perpetuate inequality, injustice and poverty, and by engaging people and promoting action, strives for ways in which to transform the existing structures of inequality toward more equitable models of development. In the context of increasing global inequalities, exploitation, human rights abuses, poverty and pollution, the role of development education as an agent of awareness building, understanding and change, is vital.
How development issues are represented, interpreted and acted upon is dependent on the language used to name them. In this way, language usage is a shared concern between the minority and majority worlds. The linguistic codes employed can frame the issues as matters of charity or justice; as politically neutral or politically problematic; as race and gender neutral or race and gender sensitive. In this way, the language used does not just interpret the world of development it also defines it.
This research attempts to explore the place of language in framing public discourse about development issues, in particular in relation to issues such as trade, debt, poverty, gender, human rights and inequality. The study will build on existing knowledge of development issues by engaging in a critical and challenging analysis of the public discourse of development. The findings will contribute to a greater understanding of the ways in which the interpretation of development issues, in particular north/south inequalities and crises, are represented in public discourse. By creating debate about language and development issues generally, this research will go some way to facilitating a debate concerning the needs and rights of new ethnic minorities in particular. Findings will inform those involved in development education, including practitioners, learners, activists as well as NGO’s, policy makers and members of the wider educational research community.
Methodology: Using a Critical Discourse Analysis approach, the study will be undertaken according to the principles of co-operative and emancipatory research (Lynch, 1999 and Lynch and Lodge, 2002). The focus of Critical Discourse Analysis is on analysing the language used while also examining the relationships that influence that language.
The research will examine the language used in the promotional literature, advertising and policy pronouncements on development of:
1 non-governmental organisation, namely Concern;
1 governmental organisation, namely Ireland Aid
Specifically, the analysis will include an exploration of the semantics and codes of interpretation as well as the non-verbal images used. It will examine in particular whether the language and imagery used promotes the egalitarian and social justice objectives articulated by the two organisations.
Promotional, policy and related texts will also be examined in the context of multilateral, statutory and/or non-governmental influence from the external environment. In order to achieve this, dialogue will take place with key informants within the 2 organisations. In so doing, it is hoped to gain an understanding of how organisations come to use the language they do and now wider policy contexts and issues impinge on the framing of development discourses.