UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Resonant and dissonant voices in the social landscape : the dynamics of a community economic development discourse Ree, Scott Alexander


This thesis is about the enabling and disabling role played by signifying systems such as language and discourse in processes of socio-political change. A Community Economic Development discourse provides an example which illustrates this role. Central to the thesis is a supposition that as social beings we are situated in formative relations, webs of signification which are constructed through socio-historical processes. These relations enable communication, association, identity, and social order, but as they are the product of exclusory processes, they are highly political; they make our lives meaningful but also powerful. Positions of domination and subordination can be formed and sustained in the exercise of order. Systems of signification play an important role in shaping and reshaping formative relations, in structuring the social landscape, by producing and reproducing meaning and knowledge. Meaning and knowledge affect thought and action through selective legitimization. Sign systems, therefore, are never innocent, despite often appearing as though natural. These systems give meaning to and yet distort lived experience; they present arbitrary associations as truth. In this way statements that people make are never entirely separate from value systems, or from dynamics of power in society. These statements may, innocently or not, reproduce the prevailing significations and help sustain dominant and subordinant positions. Hence writers cannot disassociate themselves from the formative relations and strategies of control in which they are embedded, or from the power and influence of their work. This structuring process, however, is not complete. We are not totally at the mercy of dominant cultural patterns and imposed significations and meanings. To produce one must exclude. So there remain reserved and uncultivated spaces in the social landscape. There are resistant texts and counter-discourses, there is noise outside of order. This noise insites and disrupts resonating currents. Disruption may force a break in formative relations and a change in the landscape. Community economic development provides an example of the effects of signifying systems. In this thesis, five positional characterizations are presented from statements about CED. These characterizations show that there are dissonant voices that challenge the dominant significations. Yet we also see the resonating power of myth, of dominant discourse, that transforms noise into order.

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