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Thematic issue n° 48: “Social Relations and Hegemonic Discourses: Conflicts in the Public Sphere (1)”

Notes de la rédaction

This call for papers, released in 2015 spring, has received many very decent proposals. Thus, the best papers are published in two separate thematic files, and consequently in those two distinct issues of Études de communication:

Nb 47: “The Circulation and Legitimation of Discourse: Conflicts in the Public Sphere (1)”

Nb 48: “Social Relations and Hegemonic Discourses: Conflicts in the Public Sphere (2)”

Coordination: Marion Dalibert (GERiiCO, University of Lille 3, France), Aurélia Lamy (GERiiCO, University of Lille 1, France), Nelly Quemener (CIM-MCPN, Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris, France)

Debates on LGB rights, euthanasia or “gender theory” have had a large publicity these last years in France. They testify to the many exchanges, diverging arguments and distinct positions of a variety of actors, be they from the political, the scientific, the associative, the cultural or the media world. According to Jürgen Habermas (1997 [1962]), the “bourgeois public sphere” serves, on the one hand, as a mediator between the civil society and the state and, on the other hand, as a space where critical discourses can be formulated on an equal footing and addressed to the political institutions. Such a configuration of discussion is conceived as a condition of existence of democratic regimes. However, this normative definition of public sphere has been highly criticized: in addition to providing a description of a public sphere that no longer exists, it reflects neither on the exclusions that it may produce, nor on the plurality that currently characterizes it. In response to Habermas, some scholars have theorized the public sphere as fragmented (Bastien, Neveu, 1999, Miège, 2010), that is to say as constituted of a multiplicity of arenas where conflicts in the production of meaning take place. This conception invites us to consider the hierarchies between the different arenas insofar as they do not receive the same social visibility. Thus, debates and “public issues” are always the result of “struggles for meanings” (Hall, 2007), namely, a series of oppositions between discourses, representations or ideologies. However, the definition of each position, whether hegemonic/counter-hegemonic, or majority/minority, dominant/alternative, legitimate/illegitimate, and the configuration of struggles depend on the public arena where the discussion takes place (protest march, the press...).

Among the different arenas where discourses, individuals and social groups may appear in front of the whole national community (Arendt, 1961 [1958], Anderson, 1996 [1983]), the most important is made of the mainstream media. This specific public arena, called the “global public sphere” by Nancy Fraser (2001 [1990]), the “national public sphere” by Pierre Favre (1999) or the “dominant public sphere” by Peter Dahlgren (2000), is a discursive battleground made of power relationships, that may lead to the invisibilization and disqualification of not only discourses but also of the identity of the people who speak (Voirol, 2005, Butler, 2005). In this respect, Nancy Fraser showed that some groups, especially when they are associated with masculinity, heterosexuality, upper classes and “whiteness” (Dyer, 1997, Cervulle, 2013), have a privileged access to mainstream media. Consequently, minorities constitute “subaltern counter-publics”. They inhabit micro-public spheres – spheres with limited audience – to interpret their own identities and needs, make claims and formulate counter-discourses. As such, nowadays, the Web 2.0 plays an important role for subordinate groups’ access to public speech. Heavily invested by activists who occupy dedicated spaces on forums, websites or social networks, it is certainly an arena of conflicts but also a privileged site for alternative worldviews and definitions.

The 47th issue of the international journal Études de communication aims at interrogating the semantic conflicts and struggles for hegemony (in Gramsci’s sense) that occur in material, immaterial, media or online public spheres (e.g. mainstream or alternative media, internet forums, public meetings, spoken-word/slam scenes, TV shows, etc.). Its objective is to question not only the (non) recognition (Honneth, 1995 [2000]; Voirol, 2005) and (non) legitimation processes of social discourses, speeches, representations or ideologies that appear in one or many public arenas, but also the relationship (including power relationships) between the global/national/dominant public sphere and micro-public spheres. It also intends to analyze the formation of public arenas based on conflicting discourses, representations and/or ideologies as well as on groups with divergent interests, and to examine the place these coalitions have in hegemonization logics (Laclau, Mouffe, 2009 [1985]).

We welcome contributions that emphasize (but are not limited to) some of the following issues:

  • Characterization and (dis)qualification of discourses. Contributions might question the ways discourses/representations/ideologies are (dis)qualified and characterized in one or several public spheres: how a discourse considered as “dissonant”, “alternative” or “minoritarian” becomes legitimate or illegitimate? How is this (il)legitimacy built and distributed in different arenas? Through which argumentative processes? Which instances or actors (traditional/alternative medias, web and social networks, public meetings) have a hold over these processes, and how do they operate?

  • Access of discourses and social groups to public spheres. Particular attention may be paid to the way discourses reach public spheres and to the way the social identity of the speaker might influence this process: how to understand the advent of certain political, militant, scientific discourses in the media space? How might discourses operating in micro-public spheres reach global/dominant/national public sphere and vice-versa? In public spheres, to what extent do implicit or explicit socio-discursive “frames” circumscribe or regulate emerging discourses and identities? How does the articulation of gender, race, class or age interfere with the process of reaching public spheres and organize struggles for meanings?

  • Circulation and reconfiguration of discourses in different spaces. Contributions may have a particular interest in analyzing the ways discourses, representations, ideologies are born, live, circulate and are reconfigured according to different public spheres. How do discourses circulate? To what extent are these discourses subject to different re-appropriations according to spaces? Who is mobilized in these logics of re-appropriation (associations, intellectuals, politics, anonymous persons)? To what extent do micro-public spheres occupied by illegitimate discourses become sites of structuration and formation of community of interests and thoughts? How can a disqualification operating in one arena become a factor of legitimation and publicity in another?

Scientific committee

France Aubin, UQAM (Canada)

Julia Bonaccorsi, University of Lyon 2 (France)

Dominique Cardon, Orange Labs (France)

Peter Dahlgren, Lund University (Sweden)

Cégolène Frisque, University of Nantes (France)

Isabelle Garcin-Marrou, Sciences Po Lyon (France)

Éric George, UQAM (Canada)

Thomas Heller, University of Lille 3 (France)

Marc Lits, Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium)

Sandy Montañola, University of Rennes 1 (France)

Jacques Noyer, University of Lille 3

Isabelle Pailliart, University of Grenoble 3 (France)

Bruno Raoul, University of Lille 3 (France)

Aurélie Tavernier, University of Paris 8 (France)

Cédric Terzi, University of Lille 3 (France)

Hans-Jörg Trenz, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)

Olivier Voirol, University of Lausanne (Switzerland)

Selection of proposals

The selection of proposals will consist of two stages:

  • Extended abstracts should be no more than 1.500 to 2.000 words and present the objectives, the main arguments and the original thesis of the article as well as a few bibliographical references;

  • For the selected abstracts, full articles will be submitted to a double-blind review process.

Authors’ guidelines are available on the website of the journal:

Each review will be conducted by two referees of the scientific committee according to a double-blind process whereby the author remains anonymous to the referee.

Please, send abstracts and articles in .doc or PDF format to the three following addresses:

You may submit proposals and articles in French or English. Articles should not exceed 35.000 characters (including spaces, notes, and bibliography).

Important dates

October 15th 2015: submission of extended abstracts (1.500-2.000 words) to the editors;

November 15th 2015: notification of acceptance for article submission;

March 15th 2016: submission of full papers for peer-review;

June 15th 2016: final articles due;

December 2016: printed and online publication.


Anderson Benedict (2002 [1996]), L’imaginaire national. Réflexions sur l’origine et l’essor du nationalisme, trad. P.-E. Dauzat, Paris, La Découverte.

Arendt Hannah, (1994 [1961]), Condition de l’homme moderne, Paris, Calmann-Lévy.

Butler Judith (2005), Vie précaire. Les pouvoirs du deuil et de la violence après le 11 septembre 2001, trad. J. Rosanvallon et J. Vidal, Paris, Editions Amsterdam.

Cervulle Maxime (2013), Dans le blanc des yeux. Diversité, racisme et médias, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam.

Dahlgren Peter (2000), « L'espace public et l'internet. Structure, espace et communication », trad. Marc Relieu, in Réseaux n° 100, p. 157-186.

Dyer Richard (1997), White, London, New-York, Routledge.

Favre Pierre (1999), « Les manifestations de rue entre espace privé et espaces publics » in François Bastien et Neveu Érik (dir.), Espaces publics mosaïques : Acteurs, arènes et rhétoriques, des débats publics contemporains, Rennes : PUR, p. 135-152.

François Bastien et Neveu Érik (1999), « Introduction. Pour une sociologie politique des espaces publics contemporains » in François Bastien et Neveu Érik (dir.), Espaces publics mosaïques : Acteurs, arènes et rhétoriques, des débats publics contemporains, Rennes, PUR, p. 13-58.

Fraser Nancy (2001 [1990]), « Repenser la sphère publique : une contribution à la critique de la démocratie telle qu’elle existe réellement », trad. de M. Valenta, in Hermès n° 31, p. 125-156.

Habermas Jürgen (1997 [1962]), L’espace public, trad. M. B. de Launay, Paris, Payot et Rivages.

Hall Stuart (2007), Identités et Cultures. Politiques des Cultural Studies, éd. établie par Maxime Cervulle, trad. de C. Jacquet, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam.

Honneth Axel (2000 [1995]), La lutte pour la reconnaissance, trad. P. Rusch, Paris, Editions du Cerf.

Laclau Ernesto, Mouffe Chantal (2009), Hégémonie et stratégie socialiste, trad. Julien Abriel, Besançon, Les Solitaires Intempestifs.

Miège Bernard (2010), L’espace public contemporain, Grenoble, PUG.

Voirol Olivier (2005), « Les luttes pour la visibilité. Esquisse d’une problématique », in Réseaux n° 129-130, p. 89-121.

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