Use the exercises and activities provided to test your knowledge of the text.

The book divides discourse analysis into two types.  This section is also divided into two but both parts deal with the same thing: a set of discussions of a series of exhibitions held across the UK in 2007.

Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, and in 2007 a number of events and exhibitions were held to celebrate the bicentenary.  The Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past at York University collaborated to explore those celebrations.  Most of the results are recorded on the website 1807 Commemorated.

There is also a related site created by the University of York with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council of the UK that focuses more on museum practices for curators


These two sites offer a lot of resources for thinking about Discourse Analysis I and Discourse Analysis II. 
Work through the questions posed in both sections. The aims of this activity are:

  1. To give you a chance to practice both methods;
  2. To allow you to consider whether splitting discourse analysis in two parts is appropriate or not.

Discourse Analysis I

To explore discourse analysis I, go to the 'Reports' section of the 1807 commemorated' site, then click through to 'Phase 1: media' and then to 'Analysis'


Then choose either the report on the BBC’s abolition season and public memory


Or the report on the portrayal of slavery on British television


Read your chosen report and see if you can view any of the programmes or films it mentions.  Then consider these questions, all posed and answered by using discourse analysis I as a methodological framework:

  1. How is the notion of discourse being put to work in these analyses?  It is not mentioned directly (the term 'media memories' is preferred), but think about how each report argues that certain 'truths' are established by what was shown on British tv.
  2. What codes might have been used for a discourse analysis I of these various programmes?
  3. Is there any discussion of conflicting or contradictory discourses?  If so, what and how?
  4. How is the visual treated?  How are 'ways of seeing' discussed?
  5. What are the institutional locations of these programmes that might explain their specific discursive constructions of slavery and abolition?
  6. What other discursive contexts and cultural texts  – visual or otherwise – might be relevant for understanding these various programmes?  Would they be part of the same discursive formation as the media memory described in the report?
  7. Should these reports be more reflexive?

Both reports contain a strong critique of the media memories structured by British television.  Think about these further questions:

  1. How are the audiences of these various programmes positioned in these reports?  Is attention paid to who those viewers were, and how these programmes were understood by their viewers?
  2. Is there any empirical evidence offered for audience interpretations of these programmes?  What might provide such evidence, several years after they were screened?
  3. What codes would work to highlight the absences in these programmes?  Or are absences generated more by the theoretical framework being used?

Finally, consider how distinct these two methods – Discourse Analysis I and Discourse Analysis II – actually are.  Can each support the other?  Are their different emphases irreconcilable? 

Now continue to the activity for Discourse Analysis II.