Book Chapter

Using SKAD to study Chinese contemporary governance: Reflections on our research process



Zhang S & McGhee D (2018) Using SKAD to study Chinese contemporary governance: Reflections on our research process. In: Keller R, Hornidge A & Schünemann WJ (eds.) The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse: Investigating the Politics of Knowledge and Meaning-Making. Routledge Advances in Sociology. London: Routledge, pp. 150-168.;

In this chapter, we will reflect on our experience of using SKAD in research in contemporary China. We use SKAD to explore the three-fold relationship between discourses and actors as a paradigm to understand Communist officials as both governing agents and the governed subjects within the Communist Party. We demonstrate how both the dynamic political situation in China and the individual’s political situation influenced the recruitment of participants for our research. We used personal relations (Guanxi) to approach them and employed “defocusing” techniques to build rapport and their confidence to broach sensitive topics. The resulting data shows that the interviewees used our research as an opportunity for risk-sharing and to speak the truth in the hope that our research would influence the Chinese government. Interviews thus became a political theatre, wherein communist officials took risks to become specific intellectuals through practicing Parrhessia. Within the analytical framework of SKAD, we find that every step of reflection is a paradigm-seeking process, in which numerous “stories” developed in different space and time are collected and partly used in service of compiling our own research narrative. This is why SKAD can be viewed as a universal approach that moves across different space and time. In this chapter, we will introduce how we combined the SKAD approach with Foucauldian governmental analysis; and more specifically with Stenson’s “governing from below” and Buzan et al.’s “securitisation” to make the complex power relations in Chinese contemporary governance intelligible.

Title of seriesRoutledge Advances in Sociology
Publication date31/12/2018
Publication date online14/08/2018
Publisher URL…ok/9780367490195
Place of publicationLondon

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Professor Derek McGhee
Professor Derek McGhee

Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences