changing powerful discourses
Everyday speech and action (re)inscribes discourse. Individuals daily speak themselves into existence (Davies, 2000a) using discourses available, and in doing so, are a subject of power, 'where 'of' connotes both 'belonging to' and 'wielding'" (Butler, 1997, cited in Davies, 2000b, p. 197). Yet being immersed in these kinds of change processes (i.e. through language and everyday practices) is often dangerous, and sometimes slow, particularly when the old discourse is laden with power and the structures of institutions make speaking and acting differently difficult.
Since from a poststructural perspective, subjectivities* are produced by the discourses available to us, taking up a new discourse means taking up new (or perhaps old) subject position(s). The difficulties of changing a powerfully inscribed (and continually re-inscribed) discourse is difficult and can include some social and political risk. For instance, asking students to engage in environmental action projects may require them to take up subject positions to which they either do not have access (McKenzie, 2004a, 2006) or which may strip them of power vis-à-vis other humans (Barron, D., 1995; LeCourt, 2004; Walkerdine, 1990). The acts of taking a stand and speaking out may challenge students' positioning as proper student or teen and thus position them as illegitimate Other in relation to their peers, parents, or teachers.
Dominant cultural narratives (re)producing one as male, female, human, proper student, teacher, administrator and so on have in the past made it difficult to present oneself as an environmentalist, or environmental education teacher (see Barrett, 2005, 2006, 2007; Barrett, Hart, Nolan & Sammel, 2005; Davies & Whitehouse, 1997, 2000; Whitehouse, 2000, 2001). Similar risks are in place for researchers (see Vickers, 2002; Whitehouse, 2000).
Taking up a new discourse is not a rational linear process and often never complete (Davies, 2000b). Even with access to different discourses and subject positions, taking up discourses not considered normative requires social risk and careful negotiation (Whitehouse, 2001).
Although useful, given the power with which some discourses are inscribed and (re)inscribed through processes such as category maintenance (Davies, 2000a), it is often not enough to introduce students or teachers to non-dominant or counter-hegemonic storylines and assume they will take up the new discourse"as their own" (Barron, D., 1995, p. 117). Sometimes energy work can complement changes in speech, action, behaviour, or the introduction of a new discourse, and even powerful discourses can be changed much more quickly than one might imagine.
*note that the notion of subjectivity is dissociated from identity here (see glossary), since I am working from a poststructural perspective only in this 'bit' of theorizing. In the context of this writing it was discourses of poststructuralism as cited that I had most access to.