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The feds and enviros can't tell us who we are: a discourse analysis of identity resistance strategies of public lands ranchers
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The purpose of this study was to examine how the social identities of public lands ranchers engaged in conflict with a government agency and environmental interest groups were discursively constructed and resisted within the context of relationships of power (Foucault, 1980). In asymmetrical relationships of power, the more dominant parties have discursive power to ascribe social identities to the more subordinate parties such that their opportunities for genuine discursive expression and unconstrained action are reduced. However, Foucault argued that resistance was available to all, regardless of the balance of power. Discourse analysis of administrative grazing hearing transcripts, media coverage, and interviews with participants revealed three major dichotomies of ascribed and resisted social identities: (a) agents of destruction versus stewards of the range, (b) welfare ranchers versus (in)dependent ranchers, and (c) hobby ranchers versus ranching as a cultural heritage. In response to accusations that the ranchers destroyed desert tortoise habitat, the ranchers claimed to be stewards of the range and moral protectors of the wildlife. In resisting the social identity of welfare ranchers, the ranchers in this conflict asserted their independence through private property ownership and their rights under the law. Yet, in doing so, they also invoked their dependence upon the federal government. In response to accusations that the public lands ranches served only as hobbies or preferable lifestyles for these ranchers, the ranchers responded that ranching was a cultural heritage and their livelihood, regardless of the amount of income generated from the ranches. These strategies of counter-identification and dis-identification (Pe̊cheux, 1982) were employed by the ranchers to resist the social identities ascribed to them by both the government and the environmental interest groups. Using alternative discourse, e.g., the discourse of stewardship and culture as opposed to bureaucratic and environmental discourse, and these resistance strategies within the context of the hearing primarily constrained the ranchers' space of action (Daudi, 1986) within the hearing; however, they served to expand the ranchers' space of action in subsequent negotiations with the government regarding the terms of their grazing permits.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 149-154).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Royer, Rebecca Janell (2003). The feds and enviros can't tell us who we are: a discourse analysis of identity resistance strategies of public lands ranchers. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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