Complex Discursive Dynamics: The Performance of the Labour Party in the 2017 General Election

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Politics


The research I intend to undertake through this PhD brings together complexity theory and discourse analysis to shed new light on the performance of the Labour party at the 2017 UK General Election. From a theoretical perspective, I will argue that the epistemological affinity underpinning both a connectionist complexity approach, and a post-structural discourse analysis approach, allows for the development of a novel theoretical framework with which to tackle discourse dynamics analysis. On an empirical level, this framework will be applied to the analysis of the discursive dynamics in the weeks preceding the election on June 8th of 2017. Such an analysis could give new insights into how and why particular discourses are able to adapt, endure and spread, whilst others are not. Using the complexity theory concepts of emergence, self-organisation and resilience, along with discourse analysis concepts such as articulation, interpellation and sedimentation, this research will aim to uncover whether complexity theory and discourse analysis can be used to conceptualise the dynamics of discursive formations. There are both quantitative and qualitative methodologies which could be employed to realise the empirical ambitions of this research. One quantitative approach which may lend itself well to answering some of the questions being posed, is the 'big data' analysis approach. The growing role that the internet plays in engaging individuals with political issues in new ways should not be ignored; Margetts et al (2016) explore this topic in-depth in Political Turbulence. Although their work does not refer specifically to discourse analysis, it does give complexity a central role to play in its methodological approach, as the word 'turbulence' in the book's title would suggest. To complement this quantitative research, I intend to carry out critical discourse analysis of the output of mainstream media outlets for the weeks preceding the 2017 UK General Election, as well as interviews and focus group qualitative research with relevant individuals and groups.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2094667 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2018 07/12/2022 Maximillian Guarini