Karel Deneckere

Karel Deneckere

Participant in 2015
Work history • September 2013 until now: Teaching assistant (40%) and PhD student (60%) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels).

• January 2012-February 2013: Researcher at the department of communication studies of the Universiteit Antwerpen (University of Antwerp). In this project I investigated how the Belgian press covers the energy question in Belgium, using quantitative content analysis. The aim was to make a so-called ‘media monitor’ about the energy question in Belgium, in order to get a better idea on how the press functions as a platform to reinforce public acceptability for new technological developments or organize opposition against them
Study history • Master in Communication Studies – Free University Brussels (VUB) (graduated in 2010)
Thesis on the political role of the written press in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Graduated with great distinction. On December 16th, 2010, this thesis was awarded second place for the ‘Prize of the Flemish Peace Institute’.

• Master after Master in Sustainable Development and Human Ecology – Free University Brussels (VUB)
Thesis on the Belgian societal debate on nuclear energy. Graduated with distinction. (graduated in 2007)

• Master in History – Ghent University (UGhent)
Thesis on press censorship in German occupied Brussels during World War I. Graduated with sufficiency. (graduated in 2006)

• Upper Secondary School – Sint-Janscollege, Sint-Amandsberg. Classical languages (Latin and Greek) (graduated in 2002)

Phd Projects


The representation of the energy debate in the post-­‐political age. A qualitative analysis of news coverage of energy issues from a historical perspective

Nuclear energy has been provoking heated public debate in Belgium since the 1970s up until today. This PhD-project approaches this public debate as a discursive struggle. This implies looking at the issue from a political perspective. Chantal Mouffe (2005) defines ‘the political’ as the sphere of conflict and ineradicable antagonism in society. Hence, any energy policy is the (temporary) outcome of a struggle between competing discourses, rather than a rational consensus or a technological inevitability. This project looks in particular at the articulation of discourses of resistance in the newspaper coverage on the occasion of large-scale nuclear accidents.

Having provoked heated debate large-scale accidents provide interesting cases to study the clash of discourses. From a theoretical perspective, they are considered ‘dislocatory moments’ (Laclau, 1990). At the moment of their occurrence, large-scale accidents ‘dislocate’ the hegemonic nuclear discourse. The hegemony destabilizes, as such accidents go beyond the pro-nuclear discourse’s explanatory horizon. Therefore a dislocation traumatizes the hegemony of nuclear energy. Whereas the hegemonic discourse tries to suture the trauma, competing discourses try to exploit it, to further undermine the hegemony. They attempt to expose its contingency and articulate alternative worldviews.

Large-scale accidents also provoke increased media attention for the issue of nuclear energy and, with that, create opportunities for otherwise underexposed societal voices to access the (mainstream) media. For these reasons large-scale nuclear accidents are interesting cases to study the discursive struggle and in particular the articulation of the discourses of resistance.

The PhD-project analyzes the newspaper coverage of three large-scale nuclear accidents: Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania, 1979), Chernobyl (Ukraine, 1986), and Fukushima (Japan, 2011). Empirical data consists of two months of newspaper coverage from four Belgian quality newspapers, an alternative magazine and a business magazine starting on the day of the accidents. The project analyzes the newspaper coverage using discourse-theoretical analysis (DTA) (Carpentier & De Cleen, 2007), which combines theoretical concepts from Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory (1989) with methodological guidelines from critical discourse analysis (e.g. Wodak & Meyer, 2009) and qualitative content analysis (e.g. Wester, 2006).

Preliminary results from a first case study on Three Mile Island show the importance of ‘risk’ as a ‘nodal point’ or privileged signifier within the discourses of resistance against nuclear energy. A recurrent way to neutralize the concept of ‘risk’ by the nuclear discourse is to prioritize economic risk over health and environmental risk. The analysis of the newspaper coverage of Three Mile Island also shows that the discourses of resistance focus mainly on reformative measures for the nuclear sector and only to a lesser degree on radical societal change.

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