Rhetoric-Performative and Post-Foundational Analysis


Master's/PhD level students. Bachelor's degree or previous knowledge of research methods and research practice required.


This course will familiarise the students with a distinct framework to study the relational nature of political meaning-making: rhetoric-performative analysis based on post-foundational political thought. Through this framework the students will be able to critically analyse some of the most pressing questions and phenomena of our era, such as the legitimacy of democracy, the logic of populism, articulations of gender and sexuality, competing forms of economic production and property, and the functioning of identity politics.

Rather than taking political concepts and categorisations at face value, this course suggests that the focus of analysis should shift to the ways in which meaning-making takes place and the contingency of the concepts, discourses and structures we inhabit.

During the course the students will learn about different forms of post-foundational thinking. They will get to explore the ways in which it can be combined with various research techniques focusing on the relational nature of meaning. The course will introduce the students to the works of authors such as Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jean-Luc Nancy, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci as central to this approach.

Through in-class discussions, group work, excursions and guest lectures, the course will enable the participants to start using insights from this strand of continental political philosophy in the study of contemporary political issues. Teaching will be composed of lectures and seminars as well as workshops with researchers at the University of Helsinki.

Building on two previous years’ successful Helsinki Summer School courses on post-foundational political theory and discourse analysis, this year’s course will in part take its cue from the forthcoming volume Discourse, Culture and Organization (2019, Palgrave Macmillan), edited by Tomas Marttila and with a contribution by Emilia Palonen, both of whom will be teaching on the course.

As in previous years, the course will again invite prominent scholars to teach and comment on the work of the students. As has been noted by the students during and after the previous years’ courses, this course provides a unique space for learning, networking and becoming a member of a vibrant international scholarly community.


Lecturers include leading experts in the field both from the University of Helsinki and abroad. This year we celebrate the publication of Tomas Marttila's (Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität München) book Discourse, Culture and Organization: Inquiries into Relational Structures of Power (Palgrave Macmillan 2019). Tomas is a regular teacher on the course. Based on initial discussions, other teachers will include Mark Devenney (University of Brighton), Charlotte Fridolfsson (Linköping University) and Emmy Eklundh (King's College, University of London). All the teachers will demonstrate through their own research how they have used these methods in their work.


The course tackles post-foundational thinking and the related perspectives of conceptual analysis, post-structural discourse theory, interpretive political analysis and discourse theory. The broader aim is to learn how to use a theoretical approach in research in social and political sciences.

As the outcome of the course, students will learn how to use post-foundational theory in actual research contexts, whether engaging with theoretical or empirical research. The students will be able to establish the differences between these approaches within the field of post-foundational theory, and assess their usefulness in particular research projects. With the help of teachers and the final project they will also accumulate more in-depth knowledge on their chosen approach and topic of research.


The course combines lectures by leading experts and active learning methods, particularly group work and workshops. The course hosts learning cafes with researchers on particular perspectives and methods. The course involves getting familiar with relatively demanding texts. The students will submit short assignments before and during the course to engage in and facilitate learning. By the end of the course the students will submit a final project demonstrating the use of this methodology.

Supervision is provided during the workshops, the learning cafés and through clinics by key teachers during the final week. During the excursion and on the evening out on the second week, the students will also engage with their peers and some of the teachers. Peer learning is encouraged through active learning and social engagement.


Class participation 20%, assignments 40%, final project 40%.


City Centre Campus

Preliminary course programme (pdf)

Work on student projects takes place from August 9 to August 22. The projects will be evaluated in August.


A detailed list will be provided, with a pre-assignment.

This year, the course's core book is:
Marttila, Tomas (Ed.): Discourse, Culture and Organization: Inquiries into Relational Structures of Power (Palgrave Macmillan 2019)