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In the wake of what has been called the “discursive turn” or “linguistic turn” in the social sciences, research at the intersection of language and communication and race and racism shifted from being largely dominated by quantitative and experimental methods to include qualitative and particularly discursive approaches. While the term “discursive” potentially encompasses a wide range of modes of discourse analysis, discursive approaches share a focus on language use as social action, and as a constitutive feature of actions, events, and situations, rather than as merely a passive means of describing or transmitting information about them. When applied to the study of race and racism, such approaches have examined ways in which language functions to construct, maintain, and legitimate as well as subvert or resist racial and/or racist ideologies and social structures. Research in these areas has made use of a range of empirical materials, including “elite” texts and talk (media texts, parliamentary debates, academic texts, etc.), individual interviews, focus groups and group discussions, “naturally occurring” talk-in-interaction from conversational and institutional settings, and text-based online interactions. Although these different data types should not be seen as strictly mutually exclusive, each of them serves to foreground particular features of racial or racist discourse(s), thus facilitating or constraining particular sorts of discourse analytic findings. Thus, different data sources respectively tend to foreground ideological features of racial discourse(s) and their intersection with power and domination, including examination of “new” racisms and the production and management of accusations and denials of racism; discursive processes involved in the construction and uses of racial subjectivities and identities; interactional processes through which prejudice and racism are constructed and contested; and the everyday interactional reproduction of systems of racial categories, independently of whether the talk in which they occur can or should be considered “racist.”


Camiel J. Beukeboom and Christian Burgers

Social categorization and stereotypes play a pervasive and fundamental role in social perception, judgment, and interaction. Although stereotypes are functional by allowing us to make sense of our complex social environment, their use can promote prejudice and discrimination when individuals are treated based on generic stereotypic expectancies, rather than on available individuating information. Prejudice and discrimination emerge from generalized (negative) stereotypic associations that people hold about social categories. These stereotypes become socially shared within (sub)cultures through communications about categorized people and their behavior. Research on biased language use reveals the communicative and linguistic processes through which stereotypes are formed and maintained. When communicating about other people and their behavior, our language echoes the existing stereotypic expectancies we have with categorized individuals (often without our conscious awareness). A linguistic bias is defined as a systematic asymmetry in word choice that reflects the social-category cognitions that are applied to the described group or individual(s). Three types of biases are distinguished in the literature that reveal, and thereby maintain, social-category cognitions and stereotypes. First, when labeling individuals, the types of category labels that we choose reflect existing social category cognitions. Second, once target individuals are labeled as members of a category, people tend to communicate predominantly stereotype-congruent information (rather than incongruent information). Third, research has revealed several biases in how we formulate information about categorized individuals. These formulation differences (e.g., in language abstraction, explanations, use of negations, irony) subtly reveal whether a target’s behavior was stereotypically expected or not. Behavioral information that is in line with social-category knowledge (i.e., stereotype-consistent) is formulated differently compared to incongruent information (i.e., stereotype-inconsistent). In addition, when communicating with individuals we have categorized in a given social category, our language may subtly reveal the stereotypic expectancies we have about our conversation partners. It is important to be aware of these stereotype maintaining biases as they play an important role in consensualizing both benevolent and harmful stereotypes about social categories.


Paul Sebastian Ruppel and Günter Mey

Grounded theory methodology is one of the most widely used approaches to collect and analyze data within qualitative research. It can be characterized as a framework for study design, data collection, and analysis, which aims at the development of middle-range theories. The final result of such a study is called a “grounded theory,” and it consists of categories that are related to each other. Health and risk message design researchers working with grounded theory methodology are explicitly invited to use any kind of data they consider suitable for a particular project. Grounded theory methodology studies were originally based on intense fieldwork data, but in the meantime, interviews have become the most widely used type of data. In addition, there is a growing interest in using visual data such as pictures or film. Grounded theory methodology originated from sociology, but has since been applied in many different disciplines. This widened application went along with modifications, new developments, and innovations, and led to several current variants of grounded theory methodology. Basic features of grounded theory methodology include theoretical sampling, specific coding procedures with a comparative approach to analysis, and memo writing. The strategy of theoretical sampling requires that theoretical insights gained from the analysis of initially collected data guide subsequent data collection. Hence, during the research process data collection and analysis alternate and interact. For data analysis, different ways of coding enable the researcher to develop increasingly abstract conceptual ideas and reflections, first embodied in codes, later in categories. This analytical process allows for a step-by-step development of categories that are grounded in data. Category development entails comparisons at all stages, for example, of different cases during sampling, of different data pieces, and of different codes and categories during analysis. As a result, grounded theory methodology is also known as the constant comparative method. Throughout the research process the researcher writes memos and keeps track of the development of conceptual ideas, methodological reflections, and practical to-dos. Today, many researchers use software specifically developed to assist the process of qualitative data analysis.