'Educated brains raising brains in need of education'. Critical metaphor analysis of conceptualisations of 'good parenthood' in (neuro)Discourse of parenthood in Flanders
SUMMARY – ‘Educated brains raising brains in need of education’. Critical metaphor analysis of conceptualisations of ‘good parenthood’ in (neuro)Discourses of parenthood in Flanders
Research about the relation between ‘good parenthood’ and discourse about the brain predominantly stems from investigated contexts of Anglo-Saxon countries and regions, such as the UK and the US. Literature study indicates that this relation has not yet been addressed in the context of Flanders (the northern part of Belgium). This doctoral research attends to this apparent lacuna. In two case studies critical metaphor analysis (CMA) is deployed to investigate how conceptualisations of parenthood and the parent-child relationship are understood in contemporary discourse about the brain – in short neurodiscourse – in Flanders. The entire research builds on scholarly work about the culture of ‘parenting’, and is set against a background of ways of thinking that articulate a pedagogical view on parenthood, considering parenthood as an intergenerational process in which parents assume responsibility for the child and for a shared world.
The doctoral dissertation consists of four parts. The first part comprises of a theoretical introduction into the research topic via two chapters. The first chapter situates the research, its focus, and the theoretical backgrounds upon which it builds. The second chapter zooms in on the concept of neurodiscourse, and in particular, neurodiscourse of parenthood. It draws on the notion of ‘Discourse’ by James Paul Gee (1999; 2004) as a way to theoretically discern the concepts of parenthood Discourse, neuroDiscourse, and neuroDiscourse of parenthood. Building thereupon, it presents a preliminary categorisation of neuroDiscourse of parenthood along three ordering principles: academic neuroDiscourse of parenthood, popularised neuroDiscourse of parenthood, and popular neuroDiscourse of parenthood. The case studies focus on popularised neuroDiscourse of parenthood. The chapter also provides a description of three cultural models that reside in neuroDiscourse of parenthood.
The second part of the dissertation presents the research’s methodological theory. It consists of the third chapter that describes the theory of Jonathan Charteris-Black (2004) on CMA. The chapter outlines how this research’s focus on metaphor differs from existing metaphor research. It articulates how Charteris-Black’s theory draws on conceptual metaphor theory, and how it stretches beyond a pure focus on conceptual metaphor. The chapter also describes the epistemological position of the researcher, and how CMA is applied in the case studies.
The dissertation’s third part comprises of the chapters about the executed case studies. The fourth chapter reports on the first case study. This case on Flemish family policy level investigates the relation between conceptualisations of parenthood and popularised (neuro)Discourse of parenthood in digital newsletters and magazines of the Flemish governmental branch office Kind & Gezin (Child & Family, my translation) that address (expectant) parents. The study presents the metaphorical ways in which parenthood is understood in the documents. It argues that the studied popularised (neuro)Discourse has performative force in terms of how it positions parents, and relative to how it structures arguments about parenthood. The chapter also argues how the studied popularised neuroDiscourse of parenthood in the documents differs from what has been described in Anglo-Saxon literature on neuroDiscourse of parenthood. The fifth chapter reports on the second case study. This case investigates how parenthood is understood in five Dutch popularised neuroscience books that address parents, and that are available on the Flemish book market. The study describes the metaphorical ways in which parenthood is constructed in the books’ Discourse. Drawing also on the concept of the ‘rhetorical brain’ of Thornton (2011), the study explores how these metaphorical constructions are entangled in wider discursive societal narratives and influences. It argues that the popularised neuroDiscourse of parenthood in the books has performative force with regard to how it positions parents and parenthood, and in terms of how it might persuade parents to go along with the Discourse’s arguments. Additionally, in turning to the description of how agency in reference to ‘good parenthood’ is articulated in this studied neuroDiscourse, several shifts are discerned in the conceptualisation of parenthood when considered from a pedagogical perspective on parenthood.
The last part of the dissertation consists of a general discussion that is presented in the sixth chapter. It articulates the main conclusions of the case studies, describes the way in which the Discourses in the case studies are similar and different, and continues by arguing that the concept of neuroDiscourse of parenthood is not a static concept. It then argues that the Discourse in the books seems to be showing ‘absorbent performativity’. Next is brought forth how focusing on the newness of the parenthood metaphors helps in bringing awareness to what the metaphors draw attention to. Subsequently, the chapter zooms in on parents’ neuroprofessionalisation. Finally, the relevance of neuroscience for parenthood is discussed. Throughout the chapter, several concerns are presented.
Charteris-Black, J. (2004). Corpus approaches to critical metaphor analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gee, J.P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analyses. Theory and method. London: Routledge.
Gee, J.P. (2004). Discourse analyses. What makes it critical? In R. Rogers (Ed.), An introduction to critical discourse analyses in education (pp. 19-50). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.
Thornton, D.J. (2011). Brain culture. Neuroscience and popular media. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.