Sari Pietikäinen: Nexus analysis applied: Dynamics of discourse, identity and power under new circumstances

Dominant ideas of language and identity rooted in the modernist discourse of one nation-one language-one people are no longer sufficient to explain the ways in which individuals, communities and societies understand who we are and how we belong. As these key categories of social structuration change, so do power relations, too, understood in terms of social inequalities, and in particular as struggles over legitimacy, authority and access to resources. This dynamic of change is both variable and complex: it can work well for some people in some parts of the world, but not so well for others elsewhere; it can also have desirable as well as undesirable consequences for the same people and the same places. In this paper, I argue that the interdependencies of discourse, identity and power require a networked way of thinking and nexus analysis is one way to examine this dynamics between discourses, experiences and practices. Taking my long-standing critical discourse analytical and ethnographic research in the transforming Arctic North, where the dynamics of the present-day Cold Rush echo those of the Gold Rush in the 19th and 20th centuries, I suggest that nexus analytical research is primarily about mapping connections and tracing circulations. It proceeds from an ethnographic understanding of local practices and circulating discourses, thus reversing approaches examining how large-scale processes provide a context for action, and highlighting how discourse matters in changing society.