• Struggles for Symbolic Power: Discourse, Meaning, Nostalgia, and Mobilization in Macau

      Wray, Matt, 1964-; Grasmuck, Sherri; Zhang, Lu, 1979-; Purcell, Mark (Temple University. Libraries, 2017)
      This dissertation traces the formation of powerful urban discourses in the context of rapid economic transformation in Macau to understand different levels of symbolic production as they are situated within the larger symbolic structure of power. The research is motivated by my attempt to assess the Neo-Marxist utopian proposition about local culture being a possible counter-hegemonic space where revolutionary politics will develop. Exploratory in nature, my research questions are: Can local culture in the forms of personal and localized practices actually generate oppositional politics? Or do they merely serve as marketing tools for the expansion of economic development? What is the role of local culture in the context of Macau’s urban restructuring? To answer these questions, I view the ongoing cultural production of discourse as indications of local culture. Employing the extended case method, I apply reflexive science to ethnography as an ongoing process that looks continually for patterns of situations and elements to inform me about the relationship between local culture and social change. My research adopts a variety of qualitative methods --- I conducted 7 focus groups, 50 in-depth interviews which included life stories and photo-elicitation, critical discourse analysis, as well as extended ethnographic participation. Three types of discourses were identified during fieldwork to understand the formation of local culture with relation to power and social change: authorized, everyday, and mobilizing discourses. Drawing from the theoretical concepts of Pierre Bourdieu such as symbolic power, field, and misrecognition, I connect and map the production of discourses and argue that they represent the macro-, micro-, and meso-levels of a symbolic system whereby authorized discourse (such as political rhetoric and global neoliberal ideology), everyday discourse (such as local narratives and emotions), and mobilizing discourse (such as protest slogans and grassroots campaigns) interact with one another in multiple fields where the struggle over meanings reinforces and creates social relations linked to power positions. My overall argument asserts that discourses should be conceptualized as a symbolic structure—one that provides the organization and transformation of power relations. Since the struggles over symbolic power via the construction and maintenance of effective discourses involve the production, transmission, and transfusion of cultural meanings that provide appropriate frames and positions for social agents who occupy multiple and sometimes overlapping sub-fields (e.g. fields of social activism, politics, everyday life) structured by the larger field of power relations, social change does not transpire in the field of local culture separate from or innocent of hegemonic power relations. In Macau, local culture simultaneously contains both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic frames and arguments. Social change occurs dialectically when agents negotiate their specific sets of economic, political, and ideological interests within the sub-fields they find themselves in by choosing from the reservoir of possible cultural symbols and thereby reproducing part of culture as structure, while repurposing and tailoring them to create new social practices in pursuit of what they deem desirable and valuable.