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http://hum.sagepub.com/ Discourse studies in the 21st century: A response to Mats Alvesson and Dan Krreman's 'Decolonializing discourse'
Rick Iedema Human Relations 2011 64: 1163 originally published online 22 July 2011 DOI: 10.1177/0018726711408365 The online version of this article can be found at: http://hum.sagepub.com/content/64/9/1163

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human relations

Discourse studies in the 21st century: A response to Mats Alvesson and Dan Krremans Decolonializing discourse

human relations 64(9) 11631176 The Author(s) 2011 Reprints and permission: sagepub. co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0018726711408365 hum.sagepub.com

Rick Iedema

University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Abstract This article reflects on some of the definitions and practices that fall under the heading discourse studies. The springboard for my reflections is Mats Alvessons and Dan Krremans retrospective piece, Decolonializing discourse, published in this issue. In responding to their piece, Ill address some of the big issues they raise: discourse as conceptual frame; discourse as language; the agency of discourse, and discourse as opposed to non-discourse. Keywords affect, discourse, materiality

Introduction
This article reflects on some of the definitions and practices that fall under the heading discourse studies (The term studies here acts as superordinate for theory and research). The springboard for my reflections is Mats Alvesson and Dan Krremans retrospective piece, Decolonializing discourse (2011), published in this issue. I had the privilege of reading their article pre-publication and composing a response to it. This is indeed a privilege, and I enjoyed the opportunity. It led me to revisit my own thinking, remind me of the writings I value and draw on, and generalize from my current research practices. These activities, in turn, enabled me to explore the relationship between my own principles and conclusions, and those that underpin Decolonializing discourse.
Corresponding author: Rick Iedema, University of Technology, Sydney, Social Sciences, Broadway, Sydney, New South Wales 2007, Australia. Email: r.iedema@uts.edu.au
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Alvesson and Krremans retrospective offers much food for thought. The article looks back at a decade of discourse research published since their 2000 article (Alvesson and Krreman, 2000: 27). In doing so, they outline and challenge some of the tenets of contemporary discourse theory and research. They also rehearse the main points and caveats of their 2000 article, which leads them to formulate further strategies for countervailing what they regard as a colonializing trend in discourse studies here, connoting researchers wielding discourse as explanatory means for everything. For some time now commentators have critiqued discourse studies for unduly colonializing domains and aspects of social life (e.g. Reed, 2004). This critique charges discourse studies with moving beyond the point where its analytical resources yield useful insights and reasonable conclusions. For them, contemporary discourse studies have become like the hammer that can only conceive of hammering, subjecting to a single mode of analytical explanation phenomena that in fact would warrant multiple modes of enquiry. These critics may have sympathy for the social construction of reality thesis (Berger and Luckmann, 1966) and its emphasis on the influence of representations on our organizational practices and our lifeworld in general. But they regard the original momentum that drove this constructionist realization as now having pushed past its buffer stops. Discourse studies has spun out of orbit, at once defeating the checks of academic reason and the rules of practical utility. It needs to be stripped of its colonial pretensions and aspirations: discourse needs to be decolonialized. As I read Alvesson and Krremans retrospective, I experience a strong sense of ambivalence. In the first instance, I think I understand where Alvesson and Krreman are coming from. There are kinds of discourse research that presume rather than ask how organizational phenomena are to be explained. Some of those studies are unsatisfactory. They trade in text, no questions asked. Their theoretical legitimation is that language constitutes organizing. Their approach involves analyzing textual constructs (documents, transcripts), with variable levels of linguistic-theoretical sophistication. But the verb to constitute does not legitimate a research method; instead, as Alvesson and Krreman suggest, it poses a host of research questions. Ill return to this point shortly. I share Alvesson and Krremans unease, therefore, with the sleight of hand that turns organizational complexity into text, yielding objects ready to be carved and served up while leaving that staggering conversion from practice into text undiscussed, untheorized, unquestioned. Obtaining the (organizational) text has become a foundational manoeuvre upon which some organizational discourse studies relies, and from which its analysis proceeds (Thibault, 1994). Admittedly, in many organizations it is the conversational realities (Shotter, 1993) and printed artefacts (Gagliardi, 1990) that are most prominent. But could this prominence of talk and documentation not also be a mirror-effect of the prerogatives and tools of text-based research? Indeed, the exquisite economy of this foundational manoeuvre obtaining and unmasking text is that it risks naturalizing the idea that organizing can be equated with text, and that text can be separated from its context. For its part, the notion of context raises a theoretical and a methodological question. As the domain of the taken-as-given, is context non-textual, or is it comprised of texts that have been determined not to warrant analysis? The former view (context is nontextual) raises questions about what are the defining features of context. The latter (context is that which we have chosen not to focus on) leaves us wondering whether

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and where (con)textuality ends. Few if any debates addressing the scope of textuality deal with context other than in commonsense terms. Ill elaborate on this point below. An equally important but more methodological question is: is the selection of text and the delineation of context negotiated with those studied? If not, why not? What justifies the analyst determining these matters? As I read through their retrospective, questions like this start going through my head. But my sympathy for Alvesson and Krremans reservations about text-based research soon gives way to unease about their overall style and line of argumentation. This unease is fuelled first by some quite basic questions. For example, why, in 2010, do Alvesson and Krreman hark back to Potter and Wetherells 1980s work, or even its revamped 1994 version as exemplary of contemporary discourse studies? Has nothing happened since? Why is there no mention of discussions delving into the relationship between discourse and cognition (van Dijk, 2006 and all the articles therein), discourse and semiotics (Kress, 2010; Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001), discourse and space (Scollon and Scollon, 2003; Thrift, 2004b), discourse and the body (Thibault, 2006), or discourse and affect (Blackman and Venn, 2010 and some of the articles therein)? Why did they eschew the majority of overview articles and books published on these matters since 2000 (Bargiela-Chiapini, 2009; Chouliaraki, 2002; Grant and Hardy, 2004; van Leeuwen, 2008)? If this is a discourse studies retrospective, what academic vista is this? These questions rapidly transform into more over-arching concerns. In order to clarify these concerns Ill discuss the following issues: discourse as conceptual frame; discourse as language; the agency of discourse, and discourse as opposed to non-discourse.

Discourse as conceptual frame


On my reading, discourse is in the first instance a social research construct that gives expression to a social sentiment and life experience. As construct, it synthesizes changes that are affecting relations between reality, individual, thought, language and agency. For quite some time, and in different ways and different places, these relations were felt to be incommensurate with conventional definitions and accepted distinctions (Nietzsche, 1996; Spinoza, 2001; Vico, 1982). Intensifying contact with other cultures, and through that, reflection on our own, culminated in alternative ways of talking about reality, individual, thought, language and agency (Heidegger, 1962; Taylor, 1985; Wittgenstein, 1953). People started to look for markers, for ways of capturing these reflections. One of these the notion of discourse gave expression to what was driving these reflections: The social rules that had been experienced as natural and necessary were now discourse, or more or less arbitrary and potentially changeable boundaries and routines defining of our life world. Viewed against this backdrop, discourse can be seen to have helped abstract existing social rules into a meta-principle: this goes with that but not with that (Foucault, 1970, 1972). In foregrounding the discursive or meta aspects of social rules, their arbitrariness and changeability was brought to the fore and their objectivity was weakened: Discourse is the primary terrain of the constitution of objectivity as such (Laclau, 2005: 68). This de-construction of objectivity as discourse increased the possibility of a multiplication of namings, values, and ways of seeing, or what Foucault

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termed heterotopias (Foucault, 1970). Put differently, discourse perturbed the forcefield of traditional terminologies and perspectives. Discourse proliferated through intensifying public discussion and debate (Habermas, 1979), introducing a new terminological geography and inspiring alternative kinds of framing of social phenomena, practices, processes, and relationships. From the present vantage point, we can untangle some of the insights for which discourse acts as a short-hand. Ill mention three, fully recognizing that my list is at once ambitious, generous, contestable and incomplete. First, discourse challenges cognitivism (Still and Costall, 1991). Things we do are not simply driven by what we think and decide. These things do not simply issue forth from the cogitating individual. Pre-individual and pre-conscious affect intervenes with force and often without reason in what people do and say (Ledoux, 1996). Second, discourse acknowledges the importance of human (brain- and practiceshaped) structures of understanding and meaning making, and with that, apparently arbitrary ways in which humans construe and enact existence. In that regard, discourse challenges naive realism (Giddens, 1981): stuff inside the head is not an unproblematic and transparent reflection of what is outside the head (Taylor, 1985). Rules apply to (but do not fully determine see below) how we mean (feel), what we mean (feel), who can mean (feel) what, and when we mean (feel) (Halliday, 1992). Third, discourse displaces the individual by focusing our attention on practice, meaning making, and structures of feeling. This third strand echoes Heideggers dictum language speaks us. It acknowledges that there is a degree of agency embedded in the structures of meaning and feeling (discourses) that we choose or are encouraged and acculturated to appropriate and enact. This strand of contemporary thinking has recently moved beyond rules that are more or less explicit (in meaning making, social ordering) into the domain of non-discursive phenomena. I address this turn to affect and its interest in pre-personal and supra-individual phenomena (Ticineto-Clough, 2008) below. But before I can speak about affect and the non-discursive, I need to revisit the idea, prominent in Alvesson and Krremans piece, which equates discourse with language.

Discourse as the linguistic


By discourse, as I have attempted to make clear several times, I do not mean something that is essentially restricted to the areas of speech and writing, but any complex of elements in which relations play the constitutive role. This means that elements do not pre-exist the relational complex but are constituted through it. (Laclau, 2005: 68)

In Alvesson and Krremans piece, discourse is defined in linguistic terms. This is not surprising. Intent on decolonializing discourse, they shun the idea of granting discourse rights to social phenomena beyond language. Given the commonsense uses of the term discourse, moreover, this makes sense. However, analytically, or research methodologically, it does not make sense. The dilemma of delimiting discourse to language becomes acute as soon as we find ourselves in the field, or when we follow through the claims and analyses presented by discourse-is-language researchers. This dilemma becomes apparent on at least two levels.

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First, the field does not come as text. And yet, text analyses rarely indulge in explanations of the way that life is carved up into text, over and beyond stating how texts were obtained. These carvings, as transections from lived complexity, are textual analyses condition of possibility. In my own research I found such transections to be increasingly difficult to make without violating the sensitivities, understandings, interests and generosities of those I have had the privilege to study, and with whom I have studied their in situ activities. As young researcher, I certainly found discourse studies to provide inroads into thinking about social interactions and practices. Then, language figured large for me: I trained as a linguist.1 When I began to hang around in organizations, however, I realized that language does not manifest simply as language. Instead, it came in messy entanglements with energies and materialities that, from there on, I felt I could no longer excise from my research, or tame by relegating them to context. What were some of these entanglements? To a large extent they revolved around me becoming embroiled in the affective drifts of interaction. And this was because speech was sounded, breathed, gestured, timbred, timed, projected, frowned, smiled or pontificated, clothed, broadcast or privatized, and thickened with emotion or its suppression. Speech was also more than itself and its own timing by being imbricated in the interactive precedents it responded to and the consequences it elicited. It was in fact entwined in complex socio-historical choreographies. These choreographies prefigured speakers hexis, their enthusiasm in response to and fuelling others claims, and all kinds of other affective, pre-discursive energies pushing along what is said, thought and done (Edelman, 2006). When I now see or use a transcript, I know it can be no more than a distillation of this original richness, a pragmatic, holographic tactic challenging me to engage the reader with what I and my research subjects want to isolate for attention (Iedema and Carroll, 2010). Second, the analysis of speech positions many of the phenomena just referred to as being contextual. Context goes hand-in-hand with text. Context encompasses different things. For some, it includes the over-arching system of possible meanings (Martin and Rose, 2004). For others, it includes psychological manifestations and material phenomena (Fairclough, 2005). Such definitions of context relegate matters assumed to have stability to other analyses and disciplines. Alongside textual reduction, then, contextual segregation risks rendering less visible both the magic of in situ interaction (Butler, 1996) and its imbrication in material and embodied phenomena (Iedema, 2007). To suggest that language use can be adequately understood independently from these somatic and exo-somatic manifestations is to transpose onto the analysis of social and organizational phenomena the laboratory precautions that undergird theoretical linguistics and its principal elements, word, sentence and text. Further, to insist on rendering the boundary between language and non-language analytically central and critical is to not just elevate this alchemy further, but also cheapen their constant interplay and mutual determination. What we forget in doing so is that language is an abstraction. True, linguistic analyses have accrued credibility and authority, and there are times and places where such credibility and authority are appropriate and effective. However, just as economic accounts should not be privileged to the extent that human existence is reduced to monetary exchange, language-based and

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linguistics-oriented analyses should not govern how researchers engage with social and organizational phenomena, lest they be tempted to objectify complex dynamics and promote one-sided explanations (Iedema and Carroll, 2010). These are just two of the many reasons why I think discourse needs to encompass more than language. A third is that discourse enables us to conceptualize supra-individual and pre-conscious phenomena phenomena such as the at times unexplainable amplification of particular meanings and feelings. Ignoring these, discourse analysis may remain too tied to conventional perspectives anchored in information transfer, knowledge accumulation, personal intention, structure, power, and marginalization. If instead the supra-personal dimensions of discourse are foregrounded, discourse studies could account for entirely different classes of things: linguistification and delinguistification (Habermas, 1987), semiotic-material trajectories to and away from durability and portability (Iedema, 2001), reverberations of like with like (Edelman, 2006), meshings of apparently incommensurable phenomena (Sloterdijk, 2004), and mimesis and contagion (Henriques, 2010). Of course, the turn to language played a big role in the popularization of discourse studies. This turn served to put those on notice who favoured naive-realist representations of organizational phenomena. The linguistic turn also reinforced realization that our point of departure for making sense of the world is always already discursively constituted. This is not about pinning an expanding nomenclature onto reality out-there, nor about a hermetically-sealed, self-referential languaging that produces reality. Discursively constituted refers to ways of thinking, being and doing that predispose us to noticing, valuing and questioning some things and not others. In that regard, the turn to language may well have reduced our attention and sensitivity to the non-linguistic:
. . . the formidability of the linguistic turn in recent decades has led some theorists to overvalue the significance of [language] in social life. One form this overvaluation assumes is that of conceptualizing practices as collections of sayings alone . . . Another, considerably more subtle form, is slipping from a conception of discourse, or of discursivity, as articulated intelligibility to formulations that both privilege language in this articulation and neglect the role that nonlinguistic, non-saying doings play therein. (Schatzki, 2002: 77)

I hear three things in this quote. The first is that there is more to life than language, its role in the evolution of higher order consciousness notwithstanding (Deacon, 1997). The second is that there is more to intelligibility than linguistic meaning, even if intelligibility often relies on linguistification (Habermas, 1987). The third is that boundaries between the linguistic and the non-linguistic are not self-evident at all; they are the analysts prerogative. They reduce complex social issues to an arbitrary segregation. And they are likely to be challenged by the people we study were we as researchers to involve them in what we do and say (Iedema et al., 2004).

Discourse agency
Discourse constitutes the real. Grammatically speaking, this sentence positions discourse as agent and the real as patient. What does this mean? It refers to the social constructionist realization that humans may construe things in particular ways, and that such construals can affect their existence. But for Berger and Luckmann, the notion

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social construction acted as a trigger for questions about how things came about and gained massivity. Social construction did not justify a particular aspect of social reality language, text to be promoted to its (and thereby the researchers) raison detre. We should therefore not make the error of allocating agency to discourse as a matter of definition. This caveat applies to discourse conceptualized as language, as relations of meaning, and/or as drifts of feeling. I therefore concurred with Alvesson and Krreman above that the phrase discourse constitutes poses a problem to be investigated, not an investigative point of departure. What we can say is that reframing how we think and speak about ourselves and the world is not just an ideational matter, or a matter of finding (more) appropriate representations (a nomenclature) for matching new circumstances and phenomena (Taylor, 1985). Instead, new sensibilities, practices and social relations will entangle us in politics of representation (Hall, 1996) or struggles over how to frame, identify and conduct ourselves and our practices, and mobilize allegiances for these, in a changing world. Seen historically, and especially since the Renaissance, regimes of conduct and representation came to contest and succeed one another with increasing frequency. Sloterdijk describes this growing contestation among ways of being, doing and saying using the term foamy intensity (Sloterdijk, 2004). This intensification of contest among ways of representing the world is no doubt what drew philosophers attention to how humans frame and understand the world. They conjectured that understanding relies on a discursive economy that lends figure to phenomena (singled out as of interest), distinguishing them from the ground of the surrounding flow and complexity of life. The resulting representations become not just a means but also an end of human sensemaking: meanings mean, affect, and reassure. The realization that humans embody a discursive economy creates a conceptual, representational agility. Helped along initially by writing and later by print and other technologies (Clanchy, 1993; Ong, 1992), we are able to do, say and be new things. These technologies help open up the not-yet-thought, the not-yet-said, and the notyet-done (Latour, 1986). At the risk of erasing from view the enacted and material circumstances of their production, representations can be said to harbour agency in so far that they bring about a heterotopia that is, they make it possible to value and accrue significance to new ways of doing, being and saying. They generate interest and gather legitimacy and authority for those skilled at wielding them (Foucault, 1980). But framing the agency of discourse in these terms highlights the limits of language. Taken out of context, we may well feel inclined to charge ourselves, as do Alvesson and Krreman, with exaggerating the agentive efficacy of discourse. So what do we mean when we use the terms constitute or construct? Above we spoke about discourse and its role as meta-concept. As meta-concept, discourse enables us to think at the general level of this-goes-with-this-but-not-with-that. Discourse looks down on regimes of conduct and representation. In doing so, and at the risk, again, of exaggerating its agency, discourse effects two shifts. It affects our appreciation and apprehension of particular regimes, opening us up to others, or even to the not-yet-meant/felt. It may also shift us away from the claims and interests embedded in or contested among particular regimes of representation, towards the overall spectacle or drama of representational and normative politics. On both counts, discourse, if you like (and some will not), expresses

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and intervenes in how we experience the world. It harbours and effects a perspective that resituates the individual, because it relativises, objectifies, denaturalizes, de-necessitates, heterotopia-nizes. It intervenes in our structure of attention (Thrift, 2004a). How does this intervention work? What does it mean to say that discourse constitutes or constructs? By way of answer, consider how Gramsci dissects hegemony and retraces the formation and influence of hegemonic political discourse:
One could study in actual fact the formation of a collective historical movement, analysing it in all its molecular phases . . . It is a question of a molecular process, very detailed, of extreme analysis, extending everywhere, whose documentation is constituted by a boundless quantity of books, pamphlets, articles in journals and newspapers, conversations and oral debates which are repeated an infinite number of times and which in their gigantic unity represent this work from which is born a collective will of a certain level of homogeneity, of that certain level that is necessary and sufficient for determining a coordinated action that is simultaneous in time and in geographical space in which the historical fact occurs. (Gramsci, cited in Thibault, 1991: 212; Thibaults translation)

Gramscis explanation suggests that when we refer to the social constructionist force or constitutive agency of discourse, what we may mean is that a gigantic unity and a collective will of a certain level of homogeneity come about through discourses being repeated an infinite number of times. Framed in these terms, discourse agency is congenial with complexity theory (Montuori, 2003): agency emerges and gains massivity from micro-interactive instances with at times unpredictable effects and contagious intensity. In the final analysis, what transpires as real is a complex intercourse involving Discourse, discourses, their representational and material affordances (Barad, 2003), and the affective energies that drive practice and vitalize interaction.

Discourse versus non-discourse (affect)


Before I finish my response, let me pick up the issue of the distinction between discourse and non-discourse. I am not concerned here with what is language and what is not language. That angle on things was dealt with above. Rather, what I have in mind here is a different distinction, one that contrasts discourse as structured phenomenon to nondiscourse as affect. Principally, affect harbours movement and dynamics:
The contagion of affect flows across bodies as well as across conversations, as when anger, revenge, or inspiration is communicated across individuals or constituencies by the timbre of our voices, looks, hits, caresses, gestures, the bunching of muscles in the neck, and flushes of the skin. Such contagion flows through face-to-face meetings, academic classes, family dinners, public assemblies, TV speeches, sitcoms, soaps, operas and films. Affect is infectious across layered assemblages, human and otherwise. (Connolly, 2002: 75)

Affect here,
. . . is the name we give to those forces visceral forces, beneath, alongside, or generally other than conscious knowing, vital forces insisting beyond emotion that can serve to drive us towards movement, toward thought and extension. (Seigworth and Gregg, 2010: 1)

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In contrasting affect and discourse we posit that [t]he true duality is between continuity and discontinuity (Massumi, 2002: 217). Affect harbours continuity and automaticity, where discourse represents discontinuity and mediation. Another way of putting this is that affect is an analog continuum of energy that inhabits and exceeds us as individuals. Discourse on the other hand emerges from the labour of division (Cooper, 1997) that we exact on that analog continuum:
There is in effect a decision which may be neural, or conscious, or unconscious, or habitual, or learned, or novel to introduce a particular boundary or frame into the analog continuum. The introduction of such a boundary into the perceptual field by the perceiving subject always involves at least one other frame or boundary: that which constitutes the perceiving subject himself [sic]. The subject introduces a desired closure into a continuum which distinguishes a certain part, and by the same act he constitutes himself as distinct in some way from the environment he perceives. (Wilden, 1980: 174)

Affect is continuous, pre-personal and difficult to identify beyond the energy that it is. As a-signifying intensity (Massumi, 2002: 41) whose movement and impact evade identification, iteration and appropriation, affect focuses our attention on movement, change and action. Negotiating affect therefore is complex: we have to satisfy ourselves with performances that are temporal and ephemeral, and representations that we know are approximations. Discourse by contrast is discontinuous, identifiable, locatable, and therefore ownable or dis-ownable. Its analysis focuses our attention on representing iterated and re-cognizable phenomena: structures, relationships, and objects. Here, the relation between phenomenon and representation may appear less tenuous and in flux. Compared with the analytical stance assumed and required for explaining discourse, then, affect invites different modes of exegesis and engagement. Affect foregrounds what people (including researchers) do as well as the dynamics that become possible or are curtailed by what they do. Discourse analysis is about what is without really asking about the relationships, interests and changes affected or produced by such analytical endeavours or their outcomes. This last point shows that affect theory has great importance for how we think about discourse and approach discourse in use. And yet the significance for discourse studies of the recent turn to affect has yet to be appreciated. This task is made all the more urgent in light of recent dismissals of discourse studies as operating with an inert mass or dumb materiality of corporeality that has been a symptom of some discursive approaches (Blackman and Venn, 2010: 16). What fuels such claims, without a doubt, are discourse studies that restrict themselves to linguistic text analysis, relegating attention to somatics and materiality to other disciplines. Such approaches perpetrate analysis on research subjects rather than inducing shared exegetic dynamics. Such approaches promote analytical routines and frameworks in preference to unfolding processes and relationships where subjects negotiate sensitivities and interests as a means to reshaping their collective agentive potential (Iedema and Carroll, 2010). All this suggests that we need to envisage new ways of conducting discourse studies lest it continues its representational thinking (Thrift, 2008) assum[ing] that narrative, and producing a discursive representation of our research object(s), is enough to illustrate the mediated nature of matter (Blackman and Venn, 2010: 9). Discourse studies needs to

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escape from its existing academic and analytical training in attention that excludes other ways of noticing and attending (Blackman and Venn, 2010: 9). This involves rethinking the semio-centric stance that has defined discourse studies. This stance regards meaning (discourse: discontinuity) as driving and shaping existence, action, consciousness. But this stance is out of sync with the growing interest in affect. This interest arises from a sense that social analysis has tended to excise biology and the body (Thrift, 2008) and from findings published in contemporary neuroscience revealing that embodied phenomena precede meaning-making and discourse in time (Damasio, 1994, 2003; Libet, 1985). In sum, phenomena may be discursively constituted, but they need not be discursively caused or motivated. Continuous phenomena, affects, such as pre-personal energies, can be identified neuro-scientifically (as electro-chemical dynamics). They are less easily captured discursively. But the point of the turn to affect is precisely that: to intervene in our structure of attention, to make it possible to speak the not-yet-said/thought, and to shift us towards considering phenomena that may otherwise remain relegated to the depths of intersubjectivity, intuition, suspicion, or magic. For that reason, the structure of attention that informs discourse studies should broaden out from its linguistics-based, objectoriented methodology. It should allow noticings that are less constrained by the analytical armamentaria delineated in An introduction to and more attuned to the complex interplay among modalities other than language, the dynamics that shape local practices and tensions, and the modes of participation among researchers and subjects. We acknowledge there are levels of conventionalized discourse and institutional practices like architecture that are heavily discourse delimited and that [d]iscursive and institutional practices manage a certain regularity and predictability (Massumi, 2002: 218). The analysis of regularity and discontinuity of course remains relevant. But it will only remain so if it resituates and positions itself in relation to the continuous, affect, its other.

Conclusion
Numerous commentators have sought to frame discourse, and define it in relation to what it is not (Fairclough and Thomas, 2004; Grant and Iedema, 2005; Phillips and Hardy, 2002). These definitions have varied considerably. Some regard discourse as encompassing semiosis (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001); others emphasize its gestural and embodied dimensions (Thibault, 2004). These differences notwithstanding, one principle recurs: discourse becomes a means to foregrounding aspects of social life that people feel are no longer natural and necessary. Discourse provides the means to highlight the possibility that things could be or could have been different. It helps expose acculturation and habituation as resulting in more or less arbitrary social enactments and formations. Its force comes from showing that who we are and what we do are situationally performed, strategically confirmed and opportunistically appropriated (Garfinkel, 1967). Who we are and what we do become performable, repeatable and ownable thanks to being differentiated and categorized: in short, discontinuous. They are ours or theirs; they can be avoided and abandoned. But concern with meaning, form and structure cannot forego consideration of the vitalities, energies and continuities of affect whose logic underwrites discourse. This is because:

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. . . structure is the place where nothing happens, that explanatory heaven in which all eventual permutations are prefigured in a self-consistent set of invariant generative rules. (Massumi, 2002: 27)

My sense is that we who see a use for discourse as construct should pay attention to these, not ones that return to past debates. If we fail to do this, new sensibilities foregrounded through affect, body and materiality may end up undermining rather than being enriched by the discourse studies project and render it immaterial (no pun intended) to contemporary social and organizational research. Notes
Finally, there is no approach that can circumvent reduction of the real to a discourse, not even Alvesson and Krremans. Some approaches may be better than others in reflecting and expressing prevailing sensibilities. Ethnography, for example, capitalizes on our current interests in complexity and affect. And that points us towards what defines contemporary research: enquiry that involves the researcher less in inventing and shaping divisions to be exacted on the real (this is discourse; this is materiality), than that it traces the effects that existing divisions have in/on the real, on those categorized, and on the researcher him/herself (see e.g. Anspach and Mizrachi, 2006; Bosk, 2001).2 Such enquiry delves into the pragmatic dilemmas that researchers face when making choices about how, what and whether to analyse and interpret, who to count as analyst (interpreter) and who as analysed (interpreted), what to conclude, who to confront with those conclusions, and in what forums and what media. 1. My training consisted of coming to terms with a 3-dimensional theory: the overall system of human-linguistic possibilities interacts with specific instances of meaning making in interactive time, and these in turn intersect with unfolding of social and/or individual meaning processes over historical time (Halliday, 1992). In this theory, little d discourse or microinteractive meaning-making was informed by, or stood in tension with, Big D Discourse or the over-arching system of meaning making possibilities. I am increasingly persuaded by Deleuzes questioning of this (system/instance) dichotomy (Deleuze, 1988), so I will not promote or defend it. However, Alvesson and Krremans suggestion that little d and Big D are divorceable appears incorrect according to the theories that propound these terms. 2. Bosk and Anspach and Mizrahi reflect on the compromises they had to strike and the aspects of their work that they had to forego to get their (ethnographic) findings published.

Funding
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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