Loughborough University
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Debating the European Union: dynamics of argumentation in political debates

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posted on 2016-10-10, 15:28 authored by Mirko A. Demasi
This thesis is a discursive investigation of contested political discourse. Using Discursive Psychology, I analyse broadcast political debates on the European Union to explore how politicians advocate and defend their political positions in an argumentative context of justification and criticism. Past research in social psychology and cognate disciplines has investigated ideology from a multitude of views. Following a move away from mainstream approaches I demonstrate how some qualitative approaches treat it as a live matter in broadcast political debates. For my data I have chosen the controversial political battleground that is the European Union and what it means for Britain. The contribution of Discursive Psychology comes in highlighting the contested, rhetorical, nature of ideology . In this thesis I draw upon Discursive Psychology to explore how this contestation unfolds as situated practice in multi-party conversations about the EU. Politicians will argue in favour or against the EU, often on the grounds of what the implication is for Britain. In this thesis I argue that Discursive Psychology is best equipped to allow us to study this as an activity; an observable, and contextual, social action. The analytical chapters focus on three interrelated aspects of political argumentation: the construction and use of factual claims (including demonstrations of knowledge statuses ) and counterclaims, the role of overlapping talk, and the function of laughter and derision. The first analytical chapter seeks to elucidate some of the ways in which facts and situated knowledge displays of them are oriented to as an argumentative matter and how they can be challenged. The second analytic chapter illustrates the role played by overlapping talk and challenges in managing the argument at hand. The last analytic chapter focuses on the accomplishment of derision in broadcast political debates, particularly on how derision can be used as form of counterclaim. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates the usefulness of Discursive Psychology in understanding the discursive dynamics of mobilisation, contestation, and defence of contrasting viewpoints in the service of political argumentation. Discursive Psychology can help social psychologists get a much deeper appreciation of the situated, and discursively dynamic, nature of political argumentation and conflict in talk.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Mirko Demasi

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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