Public discourse, political accountability and the collective memory of socio-political events: A discourse analysis
Social Sciences Loughborough University Loughborough, UK
This paper presents a discursive analysis of a political news interview as a site for the social organization of public discourse and collective memory of controversial past events. It is argued that in order to understand the formation and reproduction of ideological representations of socio-political events and the meanings assigned to different versions of the past researchers need to engage with the argumentative contexts in which the meaning of such events is being negotiated and accomplished by social and political actors. Taking the contested memory of the Romanian "revolution" of 1989 as a case in point, the analysis shows how, in a context of commemoration and finding out the truth about the past, concerns with accountability, justification and criticism, locating the essence of categories and debate acquire relevance as publicly available discursive resources to make the case for a "preferred" reading in the public arena. The possibility of knowing the truth, the nature of actions and rationales for actions, issues of (political) motive and stake, morality and accountability are framed by constituting the events of 1989 as belonging to the social category "revolution". In the context of several versions of the same socio-political event competing in the public forum, the study of the production and transformation of collective memories becomes a matter of appreciating the public display and strategic use of social categories within an array of argumentative and rhetorical meaning-making strategies.