Open access peer-reviewed chapter

The Plasticity of Discourse Analysis for Social Science Research

Written By

Maria Eugenia Merino Dickinson

Submitted: 11 June 2018 Reviewed: 17 October 2018 Published: 31 December 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.82093

From the Edited Volume

Advances in Discourse Analysis

Edited by Lavinia Suciu

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This chapter argues that discourse analysis in its most varied approaches and methods is a reliable tool to research in a wide range of topics within the social sciences due to its flexibility, efficiency and productiveness in its outcomes. This is why I draw on the centrality of discourse in the constitutive relations between language in action and the construction and negotiation of identities. I illustrate this claim by presenting outcomes of two decades of research activity on racism and discrimination against Mapuche people in Chileans’ everyday discourse and their psychosocial effects on Mapuche individuals approached through critical discourse analysis, the discursive construction of ethnic identity in Mapuche adolescents in Chile dealt through discursive psychology and conversational analysis and finally Mapuche ethnic identity and culturally recreated places in Santiago studied through socio-interactional narrative approach.


  • discourse analysis
  • racism
  • discrimination
  • ethnic identity
  • displaced contexts

1. Introduction

The Mapuche is the largest indigenous group living in Chile. The impact of the Spanish conquest on the Mapuche people during more than two centuries of confrontations had many consequences that caused deep transformations in the political, economic and cultural organization of Mapuche society. Firstly, the Pikunche population, a Mapuche settlement north of the BíoBío River, had to face the armed intrusion of the Spanish army, with repercussions of slavery, subjugation to the ‘encomienda’ system [in which an area of land and its native inhabitants were given to a conquistador] and the transmission of diseases that did not exist among the indigenous population. Consequently, the survivors were forced to mobilize themselves according to their own spatial organization [butalmapu] which created a wave of migrations as the search for refuge took them into remote areas in the current territories of Chile and Argentina. The loss of Mapuche territory limited these peoples to the geographic space between the Bio-Bio and Toltén rivers. In turn, the Spanish forces, by way of incursions and the control of certain areas, installed forts and cities in the region called Araucania and in others located south of the river Toltén, territory of the Williche Mapuche population. At the end of the colonial period, the Pikunche Mapuches were taken in by the Spanish domination and, together with the Creoles, formed an independence movement whose politics and discourse sparked the formation of the Chilean state, a process that lasted through much of the nineteenth century. The leaders of the independence movement, in their search to construct a nation-state, designed policies to assimilate the Mapuche people, passing laws that enforced the establishment of settlements in specific and delimited areas known as reducciones indígenas [indigenous reservations]. The State set up colonial institutions in these spaces, granting the ‘Títulos de Merced’ by naming the indigenous authorities caciques [chiefs] so they could be legally recognized by the new Chilean institution. This process was reinforced by other laws and mechanisms of control and domination that were part of an indigenous policy with the aim of turning the Mapuches’ Chilean citizens with rights and obligations. At the same time, other laws came into force and progressively prevailed over the reducciones extending a sense of Chilean nationality to an area that until 1880 was not part of the national territory.

The above processes meant, for the Mapuche people, geographic dispersion, the imposition of forms of land ownership that were alien to their way of life and an educational system that ignored the Mapuche culture. Since this period, the Mapuche people have been subject to the power of the Chilean state and have passed from the condition of a free people to that of a dominated group. The new form of human settlement that arose with the creation of the indigenous reducciones was supported by an ideology of superiority that permeated many levels of culture and national policies. To justify the imposition of the Títulos de Merced, the State set up the discourse of the ‘uncivilized and uneducated Indian’ whose indigenous worldview and way of living threatened the emerging Chilean western ideology.

The Mapuche resistance against these practices of subjugation was taken as an example by pro-independence leaders and later gave shape to the Chilean discourse of the ‘denial of the Mapuche’ which was reinforced by stereotypes and prejudices that the Chileans constructed about the Mapuches. One example of such discourse is the stereotype of the ‘violent Mapuche’ [1]. This stereotype turned the Mapuche into a scapegoat and was used to justify policies of exclusion and discrimination. Likewise, the discourse of the history of Chile describes the indigenous people as ‘part of the past,’ so as to pursue national integrity but on the basis of the negation of the indigenous.

At present the Araucania region in the south of the country exhibits features and characteristics that distinguish it from the other regions due to its physical composition and because of the ethno-cultural structure of its population. Apart from German, Swiss, Italian, English, and other colonists who settled in the region, the Araucania hosts the Chilean and the Mapuche cultures that have coexisted for centuries and have maintained interethnic and intercultural relations marked by continuous conflict.

At present, the Mapuches are mostly located in the southern regions, predominantly in the Araucania and Bio-Bio regions. According to Census [2], their population is 1700 equivalent to 5.4% of the total population in Chile (17,373,831). Out of them 957,224 reside in the Araucania and, due to migration, 614,000 live in Santiago, the capital city. Since the beginnings of the Republic coexistence of the Mapuche people and Chilean population in the southern regions have been troublesome, land dispossession, racism, discrimination, marginalization and ancestral territory recovery demands have led to severe interethnic conflictual relations between the indigenous and the Chilean residents, particularly in the above-mentioned regions. The end result was Mapuches’ socioeconomic vulnerability, poverty and massive migration to the capital city Santiago (612 km north from their communities) in search of employment due to scarcity of land to work in the south and better educational opportunities for their children. Interethnic continuous and violent confrontations have positioned the Araucania region in the lowest rate of socioeconomic development when compared with the rest of Chile regions [3].

As native from the Araucania region, our main goal as researcher has been to contribute with knowledge and supportive data to reveal discriminatory practices against the Mapuche people and their harmful effects and to unfold Chileans’ consciousness on cultural diversity so as to diminish the socioeconomic gap between both groups and help promote social cohesion. Bearing in mind that discourse [Latin ‘discurrere’] is acts and actions circulating from one person to another and their effects and uptakes from the part of the receiver, I took on discourse analysis as the tool to fulfill my goal, considering the prominence of discourse as a contemporary tool for channeling intolerance and also because it enables the researcher to reveal the rules that underlie symbolic interaction in human communication and its effects and uptakes from the part of the receiver. I strongly believe that discourse analysis, in its most varied approaches and methods, is a reliable tool to research in a wide range of topics within the social sciences due to its flexibility, efficiency and productiveness in the outcomes.

In this chapter, I illustrate through the outcomes of four national research grants how critical discourse analysis, discursive psychology, conversational analysis and socio-interactional narrative approach can unveil racism, discrimination, their psychosocial effects, dilemmatic ethnic identity construction and the difficulties of cultural recreation practices in displaced contexts and threatening urban environments for Mapuche people, the largest aboriginal group in Chile. From a discourse perspective, the phenomena of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination are channeled and carried out today mainly through discourse. We understand ´discourse´ as a complex of three interrelated and interdependent elements: text and its constituent elements, discursive practices that speakers perform through texts and social practice where both discursive practice and text are ideologically modeled [Fairclough 1995]. In this way, discourse becomes a form of social action, which presupposes the existence of ideological-discursive structures or communities of speakers.

At present, Chile exhibits a controvert behavior in terms of ethnic relations with its aborigines. The social and public discourses of Chilean inhabitants acknowledge acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity and tolerance toward indigenous groups, a fact that has been salient in national surveys within the last 10 years [4]. However, in terms of actual interaction and mutual collaboration, several studies have shown the mainstream attitude to be distant, suspicious and prejudiced, particularly against Mapuches, the largest indigenous population of the country.


2. Ethnic prejudice in Chileans’ everyday discourse in the city of Temuco, Chile

In Chile where conflictual events during the country’s development, both in the public and the private spheres, have been the motive for confronting events with greater or lesser consequences that, generally, have an impact on the relations between Chilean society and the Mapuche ethnic group [5]. These situations unleash misunderstandings, disagreements and conflicts that are usually unfavorable for the Mapuche. [6] suggests the existence of historically ordered stereotypes like ‘brave and fierce warriors’ from the conquest until approximately 1840, ‘bloodthirsty bandits’ between 1840 and 1893, ‘Indian who submits himself to the White man’s paternalism from 1920 until 1960 and ‘nice savages’ who only lack education from 1960 onwards. The prejudices and stereotypes about the Mapuche people that have been construed since colonial times and that remain today are transmitted mainly through various modes like media discourse, the formal education system and everyday discourse.

2.1. Conceptual background

In 2001 there were no systematic studies, on a linguistic basis, that addressed prejudiced discourse against the Mapuche in Chileans’ everyday discourse and its effects in the conflictual interethnic relations between these two cultural groups. Chilean society is the prototype of one with marked social classes and asymmetric interethnic relations between Chileans and members of other ethnic groups, like the Mapuche people. My purpose then was to identify the symptoms of such asymmetry, through the everyday discourse of members of Chilean society. This was to be done by unveiling ethnic prejudice underlying oral discourse of non-Mapuche adults in Temuco. Considering that prejudice is a cognitive phenomenon rooted in a sociocultural and historical context, the problem was approached from a multidisciplinary perspective: linguistics, anthropology and sociology. In line with classic authors [7, 8], this study understood stereotypes as a set of beliefs that members of a group (endogroup) share about attributes (for example, loose, happy, silly, selfish) that characterize the members of an outgroup. Stereotypes is the most cognitive component of group rejection, whereas prejudice is a negative intergroup attitude, that is, as a tendency to evaluate in a predominantly unfavorable way the members of an outgroup [9, 10]. Prejudice is the most affective component of group rejection. Stereotypes and prejudice generally lead to social problems when they result in distinctly hostile and humiliating behavior toward outgroups. Following Allport [9], we define discrimination as behavior displayed by members of in-groups that grants unfair and unequal treatment to members of outgroups by reason of their mere belonging to such outgroup. Discrimination is based, then, on a distinction of natural or social categories that bear no relation to the merits, capabilities or specific actions of the specific members of those categories. Therefore, our study aimed to reveal the prejudiced discourse among Temuco residents and their social representations about the indigenous group and develop a comprehensive model that explains prejudice and racism against the Mapuche people.

2.2. Analysis and empirical procedure

Methodologically this study ‘called for’ critical discourse analysis [11, 12] due to its concern for power as a principal condition of social life and ideology and as a crucial aspect of the establishment and preservation of unequal power relations. According to this theory, language with its linguistic forms attains power from the actual use people make of them, and its analytical perspective allows to critically analyze how discursive practices and actions allow for social inequalities. As a method and having context as the essential background for discourse interactions, we took on Van Dijk’s five levels of discursive production to critically analyze our interviewees’ discourse. These were Syntax to study the use of certain structures that favor discrimination, Style to reveal discriminatory lexicon, Local semantics to reveal strategies like implicatures and positive self-presentation and negative of the outgroup, Pragmatics to search for speech act types and argumentative rhetoric and finally global semantics to reveal the most recurrent topics.

The corpus was collected through in-depth conversational interviews to 372 non-Mapuche men and women representative of low, medium and high socioeconomic classes and of three age groups: young adults, adults and elders. The sample corresponded to 0.18% of Temuco urban population at the time of the study, 185,936 inhabitants [13]. For selecting interviewees, a representative sample of Temuco secondary school population was selected and stratified by type of school: State, subsidized [private with State subsidy] and private. Conversational interviews were guided by a general question ‘which do you think is the Araucania region’s most salient culture?’ to deepen the descriptions and perceptions of the Mapuche culture and their relations with Chilean residents. Mapuche interviews were conducted and audio-recorded by a Mapuche member of the research team to smooth conversational interaction between interviewer and interviewee members of the same culture, whereas the Chilean participants were interviewed by a non-Mapuche member; all of them administered at participants’ homes. Ethnographic observation was used to register paralinguistic and non-verbal behavior during the interview (kinesics and emotions, among others). Recordings were then transcribed into text through Jefferson’s symbology [14] to allow a more accurate analysis.

Analysis started through comprehensive reading of the interviews to highlight the main topics that helped identify and organize different categories of racist expressions which were registered in a table of four columns. The first contained the prejudiced discourse extract, the second itemized its particular syntactic structure, clue words and their meaning (overt/implied), the third registered dominating speech acts and their performative effects and the fourth summarized the most recurring topic or racist category. This somewhat rudimentary tool allowed for analyzing each text and its corresponding syntactic, semantic, pragmatic and style structures that made up each topic. Currently, this lengthy task can be replaced by Atlas Ti, NVIVO or SSPS softwares, not accessible at the beginnings of the 2000s when the study was conducted. Analysis revealed six categories of prejudice and stereotypes. The first ‘Racism’ owes its name to the racialist ideology predominant in the European courts in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and is brought by the Spanish conquerors to America. It categorized the human race in a hierarchy that placed the ‘White’ in the highest top, ‘Yellow’ in the middle, ‘Black’ in the lowest scale of human race and finally the ‘indigenous’ being grouped below the scale for being equated with the animal world. The ‘Racism’ discursive category then held descriptions of the Mapuche people as ‘backwards,’ ‘having cognitive deficiencies’ and ‘being inferior.’ This shows that Chilean society considers the Mapuche to be a naturally inferior human being, a kind of sub-humanity, to which the values, criteria and norms of occidental civilization do not apply. The second category was ‘Difference’ and enclosed stereotypes like ‘ugly,’ ‘black,’ ‘dirty,’ ‘smelly’ and ‘having pagan rites.’ The third ‘Paternalism’ dealt with the need for the Chilean society to control and protect people perceived as vulnerable and weak. The fourth category ‘Violence’ classified the Mapuches as being intrinsically ‘violent,’ ‘drunkard’ and ‘stubborn.’ The fifth we called ‘The paradox of recognition and denying’ that displayed a contradictory discourse: the ancestral Mapuches were ‘brave and great warriors’ but today ‘this race has degenerated.’ The sixth category was ‘Extemporary claims for ancestral lands recovery’ denying their right to claim for land restitution [15].

The main findings showed that over 72% of Chilean Temuco participants exhibited a prejudiced and stereotyped discourse with respect to the Mapuche, a finding that was ratified later by the National Survey on Tolerance and Nondiscrimination in Chile [16]. Moreover, this discourse was more explicitly displayed in participants from the lower social stratum and became more implicit as the social stratum rises.


3. Perceived discrimination among Mapuches and its psychosocial effects on Mapuche individuals from Santiago and Temuco

Currently, there is abundant literature on Mapuche ethnic identity in rural and urban contexts in Chile [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24]. However, from a discursive perspective studies on Mapuche ethnic identity, they are still scarce. Among them we can mention preliminary findings of [25] that Mapuche ethnic identity has been denigrated by widespread use of stereotyped expressions like ‘the suicidal belt’ disseminated by the written press between the 1940s and the 1960s. In accordance with the different sociopolitical conditions that the country has gone through, discursive racism has been expressed in various ways, from openly discriminating forms to more subtle and implicit ones. An example of the former is the expression ‘suicide belt,’ picked up by the press in the southern regions of Chile that originated in the 1920s, following the consolidation of the first cities and settlements of the country, but that was still in use from the 1940s to the 1960s. The expression sprang from the anxiety of non-Mapuche regional attorneys, representatives of political groups and state institutions, farmers and tradesmen that considered the Mapuche communities that circled the cities to be an obstacle for regional development. For this group, the Mapuches occupied land without reaping any benefits, either for themselves or for the development of the region, that is, they were seen as a serious obstacle that obstructed the beneficial use of the lands at the border of the city.

With respect to perceived discrimination by the Mapuche people, [26] studied personal experiences of a reduced sample of adult Mapuches in Temuco, who revealed clear acknowledgement of verbal and behavioral prejudice. These findings inspired a new research on the perception of discrimination among adult Mapuches in the cities of Temuco and Santiago and scrutinize in the psychosocial effects of discrimination in their lives. This qualitative descriptive study aimed at three objectives.

First, reveal the perception of ethnic discrimination in Mapuche discourse in the cities of Temuco and Santiago; second, describe Mapuches’ social memory about the way they are perceived by Chilean people; and finally, describe the psychosocial effects that perceived discrimination causes in Mapuches’ lives. The study was approached from three disciplinary perspectives: psychology, sociology and discourse analysis.

3.1. Conceptual background

From a psychosocial perspective, there are three phenomena that explain the rejection between groups: stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Although our study was focused on discrimination, we took these three phenomena into account since they tend to jointly operate, regarding that stereotypes and prejudice provide a conceptual context that facilitates broader understanding of how discrimination operates. By perceived discrimination, we understand the subjective experience of feeling discriminated against. This phenomenon is cognitive but operates in a sociocultural and historical context and is made visible through discourse. For this, language users develop four strategic actions to link the concrete data with the social theory coined by individuals, which are selective perception and interpretation of the most outstanding discursive and behavioral features of the outgroup, interpretation of such actions, the construction of models and the use of social imaginaries. Such process is carried out through the discursive processing of textual data managed by cognitive strategies, whose final outcome are ‘social schemes’, that is, abstract, generalized models that make up individuals’ perceptions and beliefs and that are stored in the ‘social memory’ [11]. This functions as a regulatory idea of behavior governing speakers’ shared knowledge of social relations, situations and contexts, linguistic codes and norms of the use of discourse. In alignment with a psychosocial perspective, we adapted the taxonomy of perceived discrimination among Australian aboriginals which recognized three modes: verbal, behavioral and macro social.

3.2. Analysis and empirical procedure

From a discursive perspective, we worked with critical discourse analysis [CDA], this time with the four-level method developed by [27]. The first level identifies the themes or modes of PD emerging from the narrated events which are then categorized into inclusive topics. The second level focuses on speakers’ argumentation revealing judgments and evidence to support the speaker’s PD. The third step worked with the sequenced structure for argumentation. This aspect of the analysis follows the classical rhetoric sequences of argumentation adapted from [28], to name, exordio or speaker’s general to capture interlocutors’ interest and sympathy, narratio which sets the scene of the event, argumentatio speaker setting his/her own points of view and backing information to support his argument and peroratio where main ideas are summarized to reach a conclusion.

The data considered two samples of Mapuche residents from the cities of Temuco and Santiago, made up of 100 male and female adults who perform various activities and exhibit different educational levels. The collection instrument was in-depth conversational interviews with a leading question ‘have you ever felt discriminated for being Mapuche?’ to stimulate narratives that recount past experiences of discrimination. Like the previous research described above [see point 2], interviews were collected at participants’ homes by the Mapuche member of the team, and ethnographic observation was used to register paralinguistic and non-verbal behavior. Recordings were then transcribed into text through Jefferson’s symbology [14] to allow more accurate analysis.

The first step to prepare for analysis was exhaustive reading of transcripts for preliminary coding; these were then entered into NVIVO (version 2) to assist in the organization and analysis of the data. This involved recording types of emotional responses Mapuche display when experiencing discrimination and reports of negative emotions. Also analysis aimed to identify coping styles to manage emotional reactions to discrimination and ascertain if Mapuches attribute any long-term effects to their experiences of discrimination. The above software provided revealed PD structures, discriminatory categories and their respective networks. Four DP modes were revealed: verbal, behavioral, institutional and macro social. ‘Verbal’ includes name-calling (‘Indio’ [Indian]) and stereotyping (‘primitive’) and prejudiced remarks. ‘Behavioral’ included looking, ignoring, avoiding and segregating. The ‘Institutional’ comprised denial of opportunities and discrimination in public offices and private institutions with perpetrators acting ‘on behalf’ of the institution they work for. Finally the ‘Macro social’ included cultural dominance of the socioeconomic and educational systems and an ethnocentric perspective of Chilean history.

As a result of discriminatory experiences, participants revealed emotional responses and social impacts. The most recurrent emotional feeling was ‘psychologically hurt’ (e.g. humiliated, degraded); a second one encompassed emotions along the anger continuum (e.g. irritated, indignant). A third category we called ‘undifferentiated negative feelings’ included instances in which participants reported that they felt ‘bad’ or ‘really bad’ accompanied by undetermined physical pains. Coping responses were also revealed in the form of strategies like defensive or self-protective, self-controlled and confronting the perpetrator. Among long-term psychological effects on wellbeing arose positive impacts like reaffirmation of the Mapuche identity and negative ones like denial of identity or accepting one’s inferiority. Regarding social effects being strengthened as victims usually resulting in having their family connection reinforced was one of the most recurrent.

On the other hand, critical analysis of PD discourse revealed three dominating speech acts. Assertives to identify, describe and characterize the discriminatory event; expressives to incriminate perpetrators and express emotions and feelings generated by the discriminatory event and directives to confront, to invoke one’s rights or demonstrate worth valuing and to educate the perpetrator. Local semantics’ most frequent strategies were description, narration, emphasis, direct speech reproduction and reference to ancestral times. The argumentative structure was made up of narratio sequences that introduce the event and argumentatio which develops the discriminatory event. PD discourse is basically narrative-descriptive and argumentative, with predominance of past tense, and it is also emphatic and intertextual since it incorporates third voices in direct discourse reproduction that update the teachings and the cultural legacy of the ancestors. The main PD themes revealed were discrimination at school (primary and secondary), at public services, at work place and in commercial contexts.

Our study also revealed immediate and long-term psychological effects of discrimination. Among the most recurrent were ethnic reaffirmation and self-esteem increase; the beginning of this process was placed by interviewees mainly during adolescence [29, 30]. Findings revealed that discriminatory experiences generate immediate and long-term psychosocial effects; of the latter the most outstanding is ethnic identification arousal, a process which participants settled during adolescence. Findings also indicated that Mapuches’ PD discourse highlights the presence of an underlying racist ideology in the way Chileans think, talk and act toward the Mapuche people [31].


4. The discursive construction of ethnic identity among urban Mapuche adolescents in Chile

This study was motivated by FONDECYT [32] findings from Mapuches’ PD and its psychosocial effects (refer to point 3 above) [33]. Outcomes revealed that PD is displayed in four types and is associated to social representations of the meta-perception that Mapuche people hold about the way they are perceived by Chilean citizens. Of particular interest among long-term psychosocial effects was ‘ethnic identification arousal’ identified by participants as a process settled during adolescence. The new study then aimed at three objectives. First, describe the discursive construction of ethnic identity in the oral discourse of Mapuche adolescents of Temuco and Santiago. This meant scrutinizing the contextualized descriptions they display of discriminatory experiences (people, categories, situation and objects) in their discursive construction of ethnic identity. Second, describe rhetorical-interpretative repertories and metaphors and their connection to self-positioning in the discursive construction of identity. Finally, we aimed to reveal the historical-cultural discourses and the spatial factors that converge in the construction of ethnic identity in Mapuche adolescents from both cities.

4.1. Conceptual background

The discursive turn in critical and cultural theory revealed the difficulty of the individual to self-determine the construction of his identity. Social constructivism and poststructuralist approaches in the 1970s contributed to deepen a reflection on identity construction in that identity is not a homogeneous unit but is constructed from varied repertories socially available to people, in particular by means of conversational categories that are discursively produced. Considering that ethnic identity is a cognitive-discursive phenomenon located in a sociocultural and historic context, our research was faced from discursive psychology [DP] by [34] and based on conversational analysis [35]. CA started by Sacks in the 1980s aimed to reveal the way in which conversation is structured and organized in social interaction, and at the same time, this latter structures and organizes conversation. CA from a micro perspective understands identity as categories or descriptions located in contexts by means of which the individual moves to the production and achievement of interaction. This may be analytically approached through various techniques like turn-taking model and conversational sequences and adjacency pairs [36] and discourse markers [37]. Hence, the aim of Discursive Psychology is to study how the psychological concepts of common sense are used in and guided and managed in speech and text to shape social life. Therefore language is considered as performative of underlying thoughts, motivation, memories or attitudes. The fundamental principles underlying discursive psychology are its orientation to action, situation and construction [38], where language is conceived as a resource guided to action. The focus is on how descriptions of people and their mental states are linked and implicated by descriptions of actions, events and objects of the external world. Actions are performed in contexts and are useful to coordinate other actions which are deployed in different contexts which regulate them. Thus, actions are situated; this makes discourse sequentially organized and institutionally and rhetorically situated. In our research we concentrated on adolescents’ contextualized descriptions of discriminatory experiences (people categories, situation and objects) in the construction of their ethnic identification, the discursive strategies of self-presentation and the relation among subject positions, ethnic identification or de-identification maneuvers and the rhetorical-interpretative repertories and their metaphors.

4.2. Analysis and empirical procedure

The sample was made up by 60 in-depth interviews with male and female Mapuche adolescents, 30 from Temuco and 30 from Santiago. The criterion for identifying participants was having at least one Mapuche surname, and the young were recruited from high schools that exhibited important indigenous student population. The collection instrument was in-depth conversational interviews with a leading question ‘What is it like for you to be a young Mapuche in Chilean society today?’ to stimulate narratives that recount ethnic identification, ethnic identity dilemma, positioning, discrimination, actions, feelings and emotions. Like previous research [refer to point 3 above], interviews were collected at participants’ homes by the Mapuche member of the team. Both interviewer and interviewee were seen as cooperatively engaged in ‘producing the interview’, this is, an interactional site where ethnic minority identity and ethnic self-definition are being negotiated and displayed. Ethnographic observation registered paralinguistic and non-verbal behavior and was then transcribed into text through Jefferson’s symbology [14].

For analysis we drew on analysis emic-based understandings of Mapuche identity by incorporating participants’ in vivo terminology from the Mapudungun language. In particular DP analysis was approached through three levels. The ‘thematic’ searched for the topic or focus (what is being related); the ‘narrative-argumentative’ level (how is the theme discursively displayed) included self-construction in relation to others and to sociocultural experiences, positioning, membership, speech acts, pronoun roles, implicit propositions and categorizations, among others. The third was the ‘semantic-pragmatic level’ (what strategies convey the narrated argument of the themes) that searched for referenced speech, direct speech reproduction, active/passive voice, personalization/depersonalization, description, emphasis, exemplification and repetition, among others. Finally the ‘intertextual level’ analyzed how the micro levels (thematic, narrative-argumentative and semantic-pragmatic) interact with the macro-level discourses (historical-cultural, social and interethnic discourses between dominant and dominated groups, reference to belief systems and values, contextualization of sociocultural norms).

Findings revealed that adolescents’ identity construction is of a dilemmatic nature [39]; this means their discourse moves between ‘being’ and ‘feeling’ Mapuche, displaying a depersonalized discursive positioning or else an active commitment to participation in the indigenous culture. The young also textualized a social imperative to be pursued: sustain an identity that integrates ethnic belonging in a context of interethnic and intercultural relations with the dominant society. This was embedded within a historical-cultural discourse: the history of the Mapuche people and their relationship with the Chilean State and society, incomprehension and absence of genuine intercultural dialog, and the fact that discrimination in Santiago is disguised as ‘social,’ while in Temuco it is explicitly ethnic. Spatial factors were also relevant. Findings showed that Santiago adolescents’ identity discourse was more explicitly displayed by assigning a local function to identity. This was due to the fact that they reside far away from their ancestral indigenous communities in the south of the country; therefore the possibility of visiting relatives was scarce, particularly due to traveling costs. However, these young self-imposed the moral imperative of learning about the culture through their elders’ narratives and participate in cultural recreations in the city neighborhoods. This was particularly visible in their discourse about the ‘Territorio Mapuche’ (Mapuche ancestral territory) to which they attached various names and diffused like ‘the south’, the ‘countryside’, ‘the Araucanía’ and 'Temuco.’ On the contrary, spatial references were not an issue for Temuco young since they had been born there, either in the indigenous communities in the Araucania region or in Temuco city itself.


5. Narrating place identity. Sociocultural places recreated by migrated Mapuche families in Santiago, Chile

Mapuches’ main reasons to migrate to Santiago City have been the search for employment due to the scarcity of land to work in the south and to find better educational opportunities for children [40, 41]. Migration to Santiago is not seen as a particularly negative phenomenon but as a way of ‘modernizing’ oneself, to learn a new way of living and to seek better possibilities in life [42]. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that migrant families maintain regular contact with their relatives in the southern communities as a way of maintaining their culture, reinforcing ethnic identity and performing cultural practices at a distance by recreating places where cultural practices and rites can be recaptured [43].

When the land as an essential concept of the Mapuche culture (mapu = land/che = man) is not anymore the main reference for the Mapuche families that reside in Santiago, it becomes essential to modify and adapt urban spaces in order to reproduce cultural and ancient practices and allow culture and ethnic identity preservation. Such adaptations allow the development of place identity and attachment in various degrees to the new urban site. This is achieved through cognitions and symbolic transactions between the indigenous communities left behind in the south and the Santiago new home place where adaptations of cultural practices, landscapes and material objects are carried out. This new identity process is supported by collective and individual memory of the family group and cultural recreation within the private space of the family, with other Mapuche neighbors in larges spaces, and/or at more institutionalized areas like the commune Town Hall and other public areas. The objective of the study was twofold. On the one hand, describe the role of Mapuche family members in the recreation of everyday cultural practices within the home and local community in Santiago and how these contribute to processes of place identity within new post-migration urban surroundings. On the other hand, reveal how such practices are enacted in elders, parents and young’s discursive narratives highlighting the importance of discourse in the construction and negotiation of identities and in the formation of person-environment relationships.

5.1. Conceptual background

This qualitative and descriptive research was approached from a social constructionist framework, which conceives identities as emergent and context dependent and is built and negotiated within specific interactional occasions and communication processes that are both context shaping and context shaped [44, 45]. In particular, we drew on socio-interactional narrative approach [46, 47] which views narrative as talk in interaction with the recognition of the role of social processes at different scales that impact the genesis, functions, negotiation and negotiability of narratives. This approach stresses the emergent, co-constructed nature of stories and is based on the fact that narrative structures are not fixed but are resources deployed by narrators in response to rhetorical and communicative needs. In a similar line, we drew on discursive environmental psychology with particular reference to the concept of ‘place identity’ by Dixon and Durrheim [48, 49] who highlight the role of discourse in the construction of place identity and define it as dynamic ‘arenas’ socially constituted and socially constructed through discourse that allow people give new spaces a sense of belonging and legitimize their social relations and practices through rhetorical-discursive resources [50]. According to these authors, landscapes and people’s sociocultural meanings can reshape and enact upon those existing landscapes.

5.2. Analysis and empirical procedure

The sample was made up by 12 Mapuche family life stories from four communes of the city of Santiago. The prototypical Mapuche ‘extended’ family includes parents, adolescents, grandparents, old aunts and uncles and recently migrated friends. Life stories were provided by individual narrative interviews and by family focus group conversational interviews. The total sample was 60 life stories and 36 individual interviews. Selection criteria required that participants feel identified as Mapuche, at least one of their elder members had been an immigrant in Santiago, and as representative of diverse educational levels (secondary, university and/or technical) and of varied work activities (professional, technical, employees and self-employed). Sampling was purposed and indicated through access to Mapuche organizations existing in the respective communes, through ‘snowball’ method, and from pre-established contacts with adolescents that participated in FONDECYT 3 (see above). Individual narratives and family focus group conversational interviews were collected in Spanish and conducted by the Mapuche member of the research team. They were guided by the leading question ‘how have you managed to preserve your culture in Santiago?’ Interviews and focus groups were audio recorded and then transcribed to text aided by Jefferson’s symbology [51].

For analysis we drew on participants’ accounts for actions and narratives that transfer meanings from their indigenous communities in the south to Santiago spaces so as to symbolically readapt and redefine their new urban surroundings. After exhaustive reading of transcripts, preliminary coding of themes was entered into NVIVO (version 2) to assist in the organization and analysis of the data. In particular we focused on three main themes. Inspired by discursive environmental psychology, we analyzed the socioculturally reproduced spaces, the actions carried out by the Mapuche families in order to symbolically negotiate the transferred meanings; here we differentiated between feelings of identification, levels of attachment and sense of belonging to urban places in the narration of life stories. Second, we concentrated on participants’ identification and description of artifacts, elements, cultural practices and geographic conceptions of the Mapuche worldview which constitute the essential basis for the recreation of sociocultural spaces and how these are incorporated in the material and geographic organization of the new spaces. And finally we examined how individuals adapt the physical conditions of the new place to their cultural needs, the cognitions they arise to recall biographical places and how the person carries out interpersonal transactions between his original places in the south of Chile and the spaces recreated in the new urban context by means of the ‘change mediating function’ [52].

From a discursive perspective, the analysis based on the socio-interactional narrative approach [46] revealed that practices of identity construction and strengthening are channeled, externalized and negotiated by and among participants’ narratives together with the rhetorical constructions and meaning choices along the course of their interactional discourses. Four types of oral narratives emerged: narratives of migration to the city of Santiago, historical stories about the origins of the Mapuche people, narratives on the struggle of the Mapuche neighbors to gain rights and spaces within the communes they reside in Santiago and finally references about relatives in the south and rites and recreation of cultural practices based on those learned and practiced in the south. Furthermore, a thought-provoking discursive category axis was revealed through which the speaker refers to everything left behind in the south [cultural time-space-activities] and which enabled to transfer to present times in urban spaces in the capital of the country. We named it the ‘chronotope of the South,’ a finding that we devoted to approach now.

The main findings revealed the multifaceted ways by which Mapuche families recreate cultural practices in the home in Santiago and how these enable the articulation of place identity in culturally modified post-migration urban spaces. Three spatial axes for the recreation of cultural practices were revealed: the private space (home)where the continuity of the Mapuche family lof’ [extended family community including relatives] is settled, semi-public spaces in the neighborhood where owners of larger private land have built rukas [Mapuche ancestral round house] with the participation of their Mapuche neighbors and finally the public space where Mapuche people make use of municipal meeting rooms, football fields and also parks and hills to recreate cultural practices.

Participants who had migrated to Santiago bring along meanings, images, memories, wisdom, customs and practices that constitute the basic inputs to recreate cultural practices and encourage younger generations to value and strengthen their cultural identity, thereby generating feelings of attachment to the new place of residence. Many of the rituals enacted in urban surroundings such as nature appreciation, medicinal plant cultivation, traditional food transmission and family conversation (ngütram) have been cognitively and symbolically transferred from the communities of origin. These recreated practices are enacted by the processes of place-referent continuity [53] and also ‘food-congruent’ continuity, a new type of continuity revealed by the analysis.

The practices in the privacy of the home and in the community, to some extent, resist forming client or consumer relationships within the strongly neoliberal-led markets and culture of Santiago. Equally importantly, they help maintain social configurations and ways of inhabiting public and private spaces that emphasize community solidarity, indigenous knowledges and reciprocity, rather than (non-ethnic) state-citizen relations or individualized entrepreneurship. Our study also revealed how the agency of Mapuche women migrating to the capital can reshape and enact upon the existing landscapes and western designed governmental subsidized houses in Santiago to recreate culturally meaningful places.


6. Conclusions

In the end of the twentieth century surged the reconfiguration of the individual as a sociocultural and sociohistorical entity, as a product of discourse in construction. This discursive turn in critical and cultural theory showed the difficulty of the individual to self-determine the construction of discursive interactions and identity disregarding other participants’ contributions, the settings and the micro and macro contexts of such exchanges. Social constructivism and poststructuralist approaches have influenced in a significant way the key role of discourse, for example in the reflection of Benveniste‘s ‘subject and spoken subject,’ Derrida’s inscription of the subject in language as ‘a function of the language,’ Althusser’s ‘subject as effect of ideological interpretation’ and Foucault’s creation of specific social subjects derived from socio-discursive practices.

Furthermore, postmodern approaches of discourse analysis, in its most varied approaches and methods, as displayed in this chapter, have proved to be a reliable tool to research in a wide range of topics within the social sciences. In particular our studies on racism, prejudice, discrimination and ethnic identity construction in displaced and/or threatening contexts have been productive and contributing to actual sociocultural problems in Chile due to DA’s flexibility, efficiency and productiveness in its outcomes. In fact, critical discourse analysis, discursive psychology, conversational analysis and socio-interactional narrative approach have allowed the disclosure of discrimination against the Mapuche people in Chileans’ everyday discourse and its psychosocial effects on Mapuche people’s lives, the dilemmatic discursive construction of ethnic identity in urban Mapuche adolescents and how Mapuches have managed to maintain ethnic identity and recreate their cultural practices in Santiago’s hostile neighborhoods.

As seen, discourse analysis can contribute extensively to build better and more inclusive societies. In fact, everyday discourse of the non-Mapuche inhabitants of the city of Temuco with respect to the Mapuches is characterized by an important presence of prejudices and stereotypes, which are more explicitly and directly expressed in the low-social-status interviewees and more implicit in the speakers of the middle and upper strata. This implies that discriminatory practices become less evident as the social scale rises. Furthermore, stereotypes and prejudices in the discourse of contemporary interethnic and intercultural relationships between Mapuche and non-Mapuche in Temuco demonstrate the continuity of a racist ideology underlying the Chilean social structure.

Moreover, Mapuches’ discourse on perceived discrimination identifies a racist ideology still present in contemporary Chilean discourse, where the verbal mode is more frequent above behavioral practices. This is mainly due to the increasing concern for human and indigenous rights at international level that has impacted Chilean society in the past 20 years. As a result, and because it is politically incorrect, overt discriminatory acts have been replaced by more covert practices mainly in the form of discourse. Discrimination perception triggers a variety of negative emotional reactions as well as long-term harmful effects; however, stronger identification with the Mapuche culture is aroused and developed as a protective factor. These findings have contributed to assessing the relationship between mental health and experiences of discrimination among Mapuche people and therefore the development and implementation of anti-discrimination programs in Chile. In fact, within a society that discriminates indigenous people, Mapuche adolescents consider that it is their own personal responsibility to maintain their culture by reinforcing their cultural identity and their individual personal maturity. In fact, the majority of Mapuche youngsters acknowledge that they are grateful and feel proud of their Mapuche identity, despite the difficulties they have to live through in Chilean society. This latter fact appeals to the improvement of Chilean educational curricula in order to strengthen cultural inclusion by the incorporation of indigenous ancestral knowledge and wisdom as relevant contribution to children and adult teaching programs.

Finally, storytelling in interactional discourse among Mapuche people and with Chilean citizens plays a key role in allowing the former negotiate their identity as authentic Mapuche even if they have been displaced to the city. In fact, narrative practices about indigenous daily life in their ancestral territories in the south of the country are recreated in adapted spaces in the capital city, Santiago, so as to reproduce and preserve the culture in the new migrated places. These findings may contribute to raise awareness of national and local governments to carry out culturally pertinent public policies in urban and social planning and education, among others, in order to promote social cohesion.


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Written By

Maria Eugenia Merino Dickinson

Submitted: 11 June 2018 Reviewed: 17 October 2018 Published: 31 December 2018