Discourse Tracing: A Rejection of Chrononormativity

LeGreco and Tracy begin their conclusion with the statement that “the introduction of discourse tracing as a methodological option is especially appropriate at this time. The last 10 years have witnessed qualitative, applied, and critical scholarship that celebrates more transparent displays of various research processes, reflexivity, subjectivity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003)” (2009, pg. 1540). While I have no doubt that this is to be true, as a new researcher, I struggle to know the history of research. As this work is citing back to the early 90’s, when I was in grade school, I was not at a level to be reading deep research, I might have to contend after reading this week’s assignments, I might not be up to it now. LeGreco and Tracy provide a new methodological framework to be placed “alongside” rather than as a replacement for a methodological understanding (2009, pg. 1537). This liminal methodology is particularly useful when “interested in examining change, power, and transformation” (2009, pg. 1536). Juxtaposing this methodology alongside with the article by Lindsay Prior and her understanding of Foucauldian discourse analysis, we see two simulacrum ways to read, represent, and utilize text.

Foucault states that “it is in discourse that power and knowledge are joined together” (Foucault, 1990, pg. 100). As such, discourse is the sum of power and knowledge. I find that also, in the shaping and arranging of knowledge, much as was discussed in the LeGreco and Tracy and the Prior article, the arranging of knowledge (texts) has an impact on the discourse, and thus as researcher, we are complicit in the influencing of the discourse by using power to shape knowledge. Foucault also states that “we must not look for who has the power in the order of sexuality (men, adults, parents, doctors) and who is deprived of it (women, adolescents, children, patients); nor for who has the right to know and who is forced to remain ignorant. We must seek the pattern of the modifications which the relationships of force imply by their very nature of their process” (Foucault, 1990, pg. 99)

This understanding of power is the most prescient that Foucault ever gets, for such a dense person, this still dense passage has been the key to unlocking Foucault for many people, myself included. What I find most interesting in reading LeGreco and Tracy through Prior and Foucault, is how we privilege and marginalize certain discourses through our systematically (dis)ordering texts. Attending to a chrononormativity in discourse tracing may continue to privilege a certain group unintendedly.

While this methodological choice is rooted in transparency, and in focusing on issues of change, it is still subject to the hegemonies of positivism and of social science in general. I find this to be more present in LeGreco and Tracy’s explanation that discourse tracing is “based upon a critical, poststructuralist epistemology, yet it provides a detailed language and systemic step-by-step analytic procedure that we believe can be understood as rigorous and scientific by a variety of audiences including policy makers, granters, and IRB boards” (LeGreco and Tracy, 2009, pg. 1520). If we attend to quantitative concerns, can we achieve a liberatory methodology, when qualitative research is rooted in colonialist concerns?

Freeman argues that chrononormativity, or “the use of time to organize individual human bodies toward maximum productivity” represent hidden rhythms that are “forms of temporal experience that seem natural to whom they privilege” (Freeman, 2010, pg. 3). Chrononormativity works in tandem with Foucault’s idea of biopolitics to negate the supposed free-will of a population. Building upon a Marxist ideology and understanding that the state has a vested interested in futurity for a means of production, we come to understand how the state privileges certain expressions and cultural dispositions. Thus, being in the midst of reading Freeman’s Time Binds, I question the supposed chrononormativity espoused by LeGreco and Tracy. Can their work truly be liberatory, when they so much rely upon a normative function of time, that is entrenched in the capitalist production schema?

While history is important for certain, and as LeGreco and Tracy cite Foucault “we are not interested in history for history’s sake. Rather, the historical positioning of events helps us to understand the way things are now, as well as how to change things if the ‘now’ is unacceptable” (LeGreco and Tracy, 2009, pg. 1536). I am not saying that LeGreco and Tracy’s discourse tracing does not have a place, I am just not bought in to the methodology, particularly at a micro level. I struggle greatly with the chronology. While LeGreco and Tracy accede that “some data are inaccessible, either forgotten, lost, or hidden from the public eye”, one cannot but wonder when we arrange data chronologically, formal documents, state-issued documents, will always be represented, and the resistance to this might be among the data that is forgotten and hidden from the public eye (LeGreco and Tracy, 2009, pg. 1526).


Legreco, M., & Tracy, S. J. (2009). Discourse Tracing as Qualitative Practice. Qualitative Inquiry, 15(9), 1516-1543. doi:10.1177/1077800409343064

Prior, L. (1997). Following in Foucault’s footsteps: Text and context in qualitative research. In Silverman, D. (Ed.) Qualitative research: Theory, methods and practice (pp. 63-79). TTousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: An introduction volume 1. London: Penguin.

Freeman, E. (2010). Time binds: Queer temporalities, queer histories. Durham: Duke University


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