Representing Reality
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Representing Reality
Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction



© 1996 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
`This is an admirable book which can be recommended to students with confidence, and is likely also to become an indispensable source of reference for those researching fact construction' - Discourse & Society

How is reality manufactured? The idea of social construction has become a commonplace of much social research, yet precisely what is constructed, and how, and even what constructionism means, is often unclear or taken for granted. In this major work, Jonathan Potter offers a fascinating tour of the central themes raised by these questions.

Representing Reality overviews the different traditions in constructionist thought. Points are illustrated throughout with varied and engaging examples taken from newspaper stories, relationship counselling sessions, accounts of the paranormal, social workers' assessments of violent parents, informal talk between programme makers, political arguments and everyday conversations. Ranging across the social and human sciences, this book provides a lucid introduction to several key strands of work that have overturned the way we think about facts and descriptions, including: the sociology of scientific knowledge; conversation analysis and ethnomethodology; and semiotics, post-structuralism and postmodernism.

 
Introduction
 
Social Studies of Science
 
Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
 
Semiology - Post-Structuralism - Postmodernism
 
Discourse and Construction
 
Interests and Category Entitlements
 
Constructing Out-there-ness
 
Working Up Representations
 
Criticizing Facts

`Since the publication of Potter & Wetherell's influential Discourse and Social Psychology, which laid the ground-plan for their version of discourse analysis, work has continued apace... As a progress report, the present text provides a valuable up-date, summarizing the main lines of development and usefully pulling together material heretofore only available from a disparate range of sources... As an introduction to this type of analysis, this is an admirable book which can be recommended to students with confidence, and is likely also to become an indispensable source of reference for those researching fact construction' - Discourse & Society

`Potter leaves the reader wanting more-which is a pretty good place to leave a reader' - Language in Society


Generally interesting approach to the topic, but there is little or no compatibility to historical discussions of "representation": in the discussions led by Lynn Hunt and Robert Charties, "working up representations" and "facts" would not be acceptable viewpoints in discussions. Rather, there is an - admittedly postmodernist - assumption that representation and perception are valuable by themselves. The book works well within its limits. Its main flaw is that it is bound to the constructionist school and does not seem to sufficiently reflect these limits. Nevertheless, Potter's will continue to be a source of inspiration for students of history as well as those of other disciplines.

Dr Christian Kuhn
Institut fuer Geschichte, Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg
November 8, 2009

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ISBN: 9780803984110

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