Overcoming hegemonic norms and binaries in demography: gender, ‘race’ and sexuality within academic demographic discourse

Nadja Jacubowski, University of Groningen
Ajay Bailey, University of Groningen
Inge Hutter, University of Groningen

The paper presents a critical exploration of scientific language use within demographic discourse. The objective is to identify discursive and performative practices regarding the category gender. On the one hand the change of socio-cultural values from traditional concepts towards modern or postmodern concepts is extensively discussed in demography. On the other hand those changes are not incorporated in academic demographic terminology. The theoretical framework incorporates Robinson’s (1999) concept of discourse and Butler’s (1990, 1993, 2002) notion of the performative and discursive subject constitution. Robinson uses the concept of dominant discourses in order to highlight a social constructionist perspective on racism, sexism/heterosexism and other forms of discrimination/marginalization. She developed a binary ordered model that shows how discourses on identity related categories are maintained. Butler (1990, 1993) considers the installation of discourses and their control as an effective instrument of power and countervailing power. She developed a theoretical approach which focuses on the concepts of subject and resistance. According to her, power represents as structural and linguistically conceived figure of performative practices. Language has essential meaning in Butler’s theory. According to her, the performativity of the language is the origin of being and thinking. (Butler 1990, 1993) The paper examines how and to what extend the academic demographic discourse repeats/reproduces hegemonic norms through the use of terminology, which refers to symbolic (e.g. terms) as well as descriptive representations (e.g. definitions). Content analysis as a method is used to identify the usage of different terminologies in demographic literature. Articles from the prominent journal Demography, European Journal of Population and Population Development Review (1994-2004) will be used for the analysis. The discourse will be studied based on what terminological categories are included and which are excluded from the scientific demographic discourse

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Presented in Poster Session 1