Ordinary explanations as discourse : a critical analysis
Extending recent advances in attribution theory, this thesis aims to develop and apply an analytic framework within which the social constitution of explanations might be better accommodated. To this end, Part I draws on three theoretical trends: generative social psychology; critical theory; and Foucauldlan discourse analysis. Respectively, these provide: the rationale for the critique of and the alternatives to orthodox social psychology, critical reflection on the social field, and the means to locate and analyze ordinary explanations. It is shown how: conventional cognitivist analyses tend to ignore the social contingency of explanations; intergroup theory cannot adequately deal with the influence of role; script theory does not address explanations' mediation of power. By contrast, the present thesis analyzes explanations in the context of numerous intertwined factors. Including role, intergroup and power relations, and institutional, representational and material influences. In this, role’. constituted in a network of discourses and practices, is the principal conceptual tool. Packaged with a repertoire of explanations, cognitions, identities and functions, role interacts with situational factors to shape explanations. It is suggested that, through their mediation of power, explanations serve to reproduce the explainer’s role and related roles and structures. Part II applies this approach to the explanation of rape. Detailed analysis of gender stereotypes, rape myths, the the professional, polemical and lay explanation of rape produced three ideal types: the dimensional, typological and schismatic. These served to tie particular explanatory forms to their corresponding frameworks of discourse/practice and to role. The function of such rape explanations was further explored with respect to 'traditional' and 'anti-sexist' male roles, and to the role of policeman- In the latter case, it was shown that explanations tended to distance rape from 'normal’ sexuality, thereby recursively conditioning the police role and its legal, organizational and cultural delineants.