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The Discursive-Material Knot

Cyprus in Conflict and Community Media Participation

Nico Carpentier

The theoretical framework of the discursive-material knot consists out of a non-hierarchical ontology of the interactions of the discursive and the material, articulating the assemblages that are driven by this ontological setting as restless and contingent, sometimes incessantly changing shapes and sometimes being deeply sedimented. This book acknowledges the importance of discourse studies, in having produced a better understanding of the socio-political role of frameworks of intelligibility, and of materialism theory in highlighting the importance of the agentic role of materials. Still, the combination of the discursive and the material requires our attention in a much more fundamental way; that is where this book’s first platform aims to provide a contribution.

These ontological-theoretical reflections are not produced in a void, but they are put to work in this book, first in platform two, which consists of a discursive-material re-reading of three theoretical fields, dealing with practices that are all highly relevant in contemporary democracies: participation, community media and conflict (transformation). Finally, in the third platform, this book turns its attention to a particular social reality, analyzing the logic of the discursive-material knot in the particular context of the Cyprus Problem. This case study fills a gap by bringing community media and conflict transformation together, through the analysis of the role of the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC), and its webradio MYCYradio, in contributing to the transformation of antagonism into agonism. Deploying a discursive-material analysis to study the participation and agonization (and their articulation) in CCMC/MYCYradio shows the complexity and richness of conflict transformation processes, in combination with the importance of organizations such as CCMC/MYCYradio for the betterment of society.

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Chapter 1: Reconciling the Discursive and the Material—A Knotted Theoretical Framework


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Platform 1 of this book contains the detailed development of the two dimensions that provide the theoretical backbone for the entire work. The first dimension, the discursive and the material, forms the very heart of the book’s theoretical framework. Here, the main argument is that we need to understand the relationship between the discursive and the material as a knot, where both components are intrinsically, intensely, and intimately entangled (see Barad, 2007; Gamble & Hanan, 2016), without either of the components being necessarily dominant. Fraser (1997: 15), writing in a very different context, formulates this idea as follows:

“Even the most material economic institutions have a constitutive, irreducible cultural dimension; they are shot through with significations and norms. Conversely, even the most discursive cultural practices have a constitutive, irreducible political-economic dimension; they are underpinned by material supports.”

The metaphor of the Gordian knot may come to mind here, but it might not be the best one, as the simple stroke of a sword will not suffice to deal with this knot. What this theoretical discussion aims to do instead, is to provide an understanding of how the material and the discursive interact, without attempting to untie the knot, or, in other words, without segregating the ← 13 | 14 → material and the discursive, even though, for analytical reasons, the two concepts are used (and distinguished). In contrast, the knot is...

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