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Educação e Pesquisa

Print version ISSN 1517-9702On-line version ISSN 1678-4634

Educ. Pesqui. vol.45  São Paulo  2019  Epub Jan 17, 2019

https://doi.org/10.1590/s1678-4634201945190398 

SECTION: ARTICLES

Games of truth in Chile´s university entrance exam involving the controversy around the occupation of the Palestine territory by Israel1

María Paulina Castro Torres2 

2- Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil. Contact: paucastr@u.uchile.cl.


Abstract

Interested in acquiring an in-depth understanding of the standardized tests for higher-education admission and with the purpose of discussing the relations between the entrance exams and the Chilean curriculum, my intent in this article is to analyze the controversy arising from a question in the history, geography and social science test which went around throughout the country´s digital media in 2015. With such goal, based on Maingueneau, Grillo, and Possenti´s discursive analysis, I will sustain a theoretical dialogue among Bakhtin, Bourdieu, and Foucault. Thus, I will focus on the comments posted by internet users about the truthfulness or falsehood of a question in this entrance exam, which concerns Israel´s occupation of the Palestine´s territory. In addition, in order clarify my analytical perspective, I will take from the same subject matter in the 2012 exams, the comments by teachers about a question that mentioned the indigenous resistance of the Mapuche people to the Spanish colonization. Upon gathering this corpus, I will describe and compare the rule of discursive formation developed in what I will consider a field of strategical possibilities which allows for irreconcilable interests. After all, I will not only discuss the relations of pressure and legitimacy between the questions appearing in this entrance exam and the Chilean curriculum by competences, but I will also address the constitution of candidates as effects of power and knowledge, that is, the constitution of candidates seen then as fit or unfit to access the university.

Key words: Chilean university entrance exam; Curriculum; Discourse

Resumo

Com interesse em aprofundar a compreensão das provas estandardizadas de admissão universitária e com o objetivo de discutir as relações entre o vestibular e o currículo chileno, propomo-nos, neste artigo, a analisar uma polêmica suscitada por uma pergunta de história, geografia e ciências sociais que circulou na mídia digital do país no ano 2015. Com esse escopo, a partir da análise discursiva de Maingueneau, Grillo e Possenti, sustentaremos um diálogo teórico entre Bakhtin, Bourdieu e Foucault. Desse modo, focaremos nos comentários desenvolvidos por internautas em torno da verdade ou da falsidade de uma questão desse vestibular, a qual se refere à ocupação do território da Palestina por Israel. Além disso, para melhor apresentarmos nossa perspectiva analítica, tomaremos, da mesma disciplina da prova do ano 2012, o gabarito comentado de uma questão que faz referência à resistência indígena do povo mapuche à colonização dos espanhóis. Assim, a partir desse corpus, procederemos à descrição e à comparação das regras de formação discursiva desenvolvidas no que consideraremos um campo de possibilidades estratégicas que permite interesses irreconciliáveis. Afinal, não apenas discutiremos as relações de pressão e de legitimação entre as perguntas desse exame de admissão e o currículo chileno por competências, mas também trataremos da constituição dos candidatos como efeitos de poder e de saber, isto é, a constituição dos candidatos tidos então como competentes ou incompetentes no acesso à universidade.

Palavras-Chave: Vestibular chileno; Currículo; Discurso

Introduction

Considering my interest in comprehending the Chilean university entrance exams3 based on discursive analysis, I intend to discuss a controversy occurring in 2015, arising from a question appearing in the test of history, geography, and social science in the same year .

Beyond the university admission preparation courses, the textbooks used for such, the practice test or even the classes, an item of the admission exam went around in the digital media and in the discussion forums for stories published by different newspapers. It is a question from PSU which circulated through the web hyper-genre in online newspapers which, in turn, as media, frame or transform from above the discursive genres; that is why they are useful in researching communicational practices on internet (MAINGUENEAU, 2014a).

It should be mentioned, however, that my scope will not be the PSU question but rather the discourses produced by internet users in the discussion forums of a digital newspaper which, at that time, published the story about the outrage in the Jewish community concerning a question appearing in the university entrance exam. Thus, my attention will focus on the analyses of individuals who identify themselves as assessors in the comments posted in the websites. As Maingueneau (2014a) argues, these commentators, with no institutional status, would hardly be able to produce the Stories in the newspapers in a way to make them consistent works.

Thus, I will consider the selected material appropriate since it provides us, as a starting point, with a controversy between the discourses coming from different standpoints and simulacrums of the other (POSSENTI, 2011a), around the veracity or error of the PSU question, and it also leads, in continuation, to the appropriateness (or lack of it) of the Jewish community to judge the Chilean admission exam. Moreover, in Bourdieu´s perspective, the relative positions in the field, specifically the controversial ones, could be specified in the language , since “the relative position of each wordingenunciation is expressed in its responsive attitude towards the others in a certain sphere” (GRILLO, 2010, p. 149); these characteristics, as I see them, would be fulfilled by the corpus I was able to gather, since they are discussion forums where internet users explicitly interact among them and with the news story.

That said, I present, for this study, the headlines of the stories in the digital newspapers at that time, which make up my corpus:

La comunidad judía pide revisar pregunta piloto de la PSU sobre conflicto en medio oriente [the Jewish community asks for a PSU pilot question about the Middle East conflict to be revised] (emol.com, 03/12/2015).

DEMRE lamenta la inquietud que generó en comunidad judía pregunta experimental en PSU de historia [DEMRE regrets the restlessness in the Jewish community resulting from a PSU experimental question in history] (emol.com, 04/12/2015).

The DEMRE4 expressed, at the time of the controversy, that the item under criticism was a pilot question and it would not be released to the public; by doing so, they refuted the information about the question that had appeared on internet. Indeed, different digital newspapers presented the question, which provided me with material for the issues discussed herein. A seguir, reproduções do site www.palestinalibre.org, na qual podemos observar um mapa, e de www.theclinic.com (Figuras 1 e 2):

Source: http://palestinalibre.org/articulo.php?a=59139.

Figure 1 – The PSU question on the palestina.org website 

Source: http://www.theclinic.cl/2015/12/02/comunidad-judia-solicita-a-autoridades-de-la-u-de-chile-revisar-pregunta-de-la-psu-que-hablaba-de-ocupacion-israeli-en-palestina/.

Figure 2 – The PSU question on www.theclinic.com 

The articles included in my corpus also address the question. Website www.emol.com presented the question of university entrance exam (03 Dec 2015), transcribed as follows:

Source: www.emol.com/noticias/Nacional/2015/12/03/762193/Comunidad-judia-pide-revisar-pregunta-piloto-de-la-PSU-sobre-conflicto-en-Medio-Oriente.html.

Figure 3 – Question on www.emol.com 

As I have already highlighted, my interest is to understand the making of the Chilean university entrance exam. I will consider in my corpus the portionclipping of the commented answers for the 2012 admission exam (DEMRE, 2014) dealing specifically with 29, of history, geography, and social science. I have made this choice with the purpose of comparing the discursive functioning of two texts from fields of activity which, although different, they turn out to be convergent for the discussion around the truth and the falsehood of an entrance exam question. From that, I clarify my analytical perspective and some of my working hypothesis, stemming from the possible links of the Chilean curriculum with the PSU. Thus I inquire about the differences in the discursive controls in a question that gave rise to a controversy and which went around on internet in comparison to a question that was dealt with only in the commented official answers given by DEMRE and in the exam itself.

Below I present the comments and question 29, appearing in the 2012 admission exam, regarding the subjects of history, geography, and social science:

Source: DEMRE, 2014.

Figura 4 – Question 29 and the official 2012 commented answers 

Theoretical grounds

The Other in the Same

To sustain my analytical proposal, I will turn to the dialogue between Bakhtin and Foucault, starting with Mainguenau (2016). For that, I will focus on the notion of discursive formation and, thereby, I will also discuss from the perspective of Pêcheux (2010).

For Maingueneau (2016), both in Lacan´s perspective as in the declarative view, concerning ideology, among other relevant considerations, the Other/other is placed as the cornerstone of discursiveness, therefore the importance of Bakhtin and the dialogical principle in the primacy of the inter-discourse, in which the Other is found in the root of the Same. As a result, when we talk about discursive formations, we realize that they find the principle of their unity in a regulated conflict, since the articulations of the discursive formations are stuck to this dialogism. However, we have to consider that the concept of discursive formation is conceptually affiliated both to Foucault and to Pêcheux (MAINGUENEAU, 2015a).

In Chapter III of Semantics and discourse,Pêcheux (2010) resumes the discussion about the constitutive dependency of the materiality of the meaning in respect of the complex nature of the ideological formations. In his view, in the ideological formations, the discursive formations determine “what can and must be said (articulated under the form of a screed, a sermon, a pamphlet, an exhibition, a program, etc.)” (PÊCHEUX, 2010, p. 146, original emphasis), that is, “the words, expressions, propositions, etc. take their meaning from the discursive formation in which they are produced” (PÊCHEUX, 2010, p. 147). Instead, in the view of Maingueneau (2015, 2008), following Pêcheux materialist analysis, the discursive formation results transverse and restrictive to the discursive genres.

As for Foucault (2008), in his book Archeology of Knowledge, discursive formation is a regularity, an order, correlations, position, functioning, and transformation of a given set of wordingenunciations; therefore, the rule to form the elements in such a formation as conditions of existence, of coexistence, of maintenance, of modification, and of disappearance. Thus says the author:

In the case that between the objects, the types of wordingenunciations, the concepts, the topic choices a regularity can be defined (a order, correlations, positions and functioning, transformations), we shall say, by convention, that it is a discursive formation. (FOUCAULT, 2008, p. 143).

At the same time, the author defines the rules of formation, considered then as:

[...] the conditions to which the elements of this breakdown (objects, modes of wordkingenunciation, concepts, topic choices) are subject to. The rules of formation are the conditions of existence (but also of coexistence, of maintenance, of modification, and of disappearance, in a discursive breakdown). (FOUCAULT, 2008, p. 143).

Alongsiddse these notions, Maingueneau (2008) refers that Foucault would define the discursive formation as a set of wordingenunciations under regularities and dispersions beyond all coherence. Related to this discussion, for Machado (1974) and Brandão (2011), the Foucauldian concept of discourse is the dispersion not linked to a principle of unity that brings ramifications into the analysis, a fact that would find different justifications: for Machado (1974), because the analysis is the description of such dispersion; for Brandão (2011), because the discourse analysis aims at establishing the rules of formation of such dispersions, which, as a system of relations, determine or authorize certain discursive objects, types of wordingenunciation, strategies, concepts, topics, and theories. As a result, a discursive formation is the step from dispersion to the regularity of a set of wordingenunciations, which in turn remits to such given formation. Even if both Pêcheux (2010) and Foucault (2008) retain, in the analysis, the consideration of the topic units and, together with them, the very inconsistencies of those units, as Maingueneau (2008) sees it, there are differences in the way both authors conceive the discursive formation. Specifically, the nuances between the terms position – “inscribed in the space of class struggle” (MAINGUENEAU, 2008, p. 14) – e positioning in the discursive field.

For Maingueneau (2008), Pêcheux underlines a notion of discursive, in respect of class positions and ideological formations, of psychoanalytical nature. In addition, the problem of discursive genres should be minor in respect to the class position. For Foucault, especially in Archeology of Knowledge (2008), discourse analysis is meant to focus on the discursive institution, consequently, on the “mutual binding of an usage of the language and of a place in those wordingenunciation devices which are genres of discourse” (MAINGUENEAU, 2008, p. 34).

In this regard, I must remind that, to overcome the discursive unity anchored to the same object, Foucault (1972) proposed the law of breakdown of objects, that is, a game with rules of transformation of objects, in breaks in time that provide them with permanence, dispersion or even interstices under which they move about. Under the form of enunciations, Foucault (1972) argued that the rules that make this enunciation possible, whether or not they are perceptive or mediated, both by instruments, protocols, mathematization or by some other fashion. Therefore, no matter the resource, the breakdown, the support, the consequences, the exclusions, the transformations, their alternation, their position as well as their restoration, all of it would make a enunciation possible.

Beyond the permanence and coherence of the concepts envisioned by Foucault, the philosopher brought up the importance of the emergence of such notions, both simultaneous and successive, their separations and also their incompatibilities, that is, he clarified the possibility of “analyzing the game of their appearance and their dispersion” (FOUCAULT, 1972, p. 48). After all, by rejecting the search for identity and for the permanence of topics, Foucault (1972) proposed to demarcate the dispersion of the points of choice, to focus on opening possibilities that come forward, of the place that allows for incompatible interests, therefore, to define “a field of strategical possibilities” (FOUCAULT, 1972, p. 50). It is around the notion of field that we may establish a dialogue between Foucault and Bakhtin, or Foucault and Bourdieu, a topic that I will develop in the next section.

Field and sphere

In order to think the dialogue between Bakhtin and Bourdieu around the notion of field or sphere, my theoretical basis is Grillo (2010) and Maingueneau (2010, 2015), with the purpose of understanding how those relations are articulated.

For Grillo (2010), Bakhtin and Bourdieu share some viewpoints: first, the critique of subjectivism and objectivism; second, the critique of “a conception of the language and of society as a system without subject” (GRILLO, 2010, p. 136) – notwithstanding, they do not see the subject as a free consciousness; the third, the critique of the concept of language as a system of signs, as Saussure thinks it. In addition, both Bakhtin and Bourdieu would agree that “the meaning of the constitution of the subjects goes from the social to the individual” (GRILLO, 2010, p. 139). That is why, according to the author, Bakhtin/Voloshinov and Bourdieu would describe inter-related aspects, “since Bakhtin´s assessments are one of the practices engendered by the habitus which, in turn, is produced under specific social conditions” (GRILLO, 2010, p. 141).

Still based on Grillo (2010), in Bakhtin, the interaction takes place in socio-historic conditions which, in their order of effects of meaning, on one hand, the most immediate social situation, and, on the other hand, the widest social environment. Specifically, in the broadest social milieu, there would be a common ideological horizon, in which the discursive would be the evaluating finish between the verbal material and the context. Thus, he sees the terms field/sphere, crafted by authors, as space of conditioning refraction for the pairs enunciation/object of meaning, enunciation/enunciation, and enunciation/enunciator .

I understand the notion of field in Bourdieu (CATANI, 2017) as a microcosm within a macrocosm, which has specific rules of the game, beyond socioeconomic interests. Thus, it is a system of positions taken by different agents, which makes comprehensible, as a result, the practices and the strategies of subversion or maintenance adopted by those agents. As a space of struggle, the field is intended for appropriation of the (field´s) specific capital, distributed unequally among the agents. Thus, each field corresponds to a habitus, or system of dispositions embodied by the agents. In other words, every field has a relative autonomy; therefore, every field has its own logic.

In my case, specific as the scientific field is, one might take a look at the issue of truth in Bourdieu: it would be around whether “the competitors agree about the principles of verification of the compliance with reality […] about the tacit contract, inseparably political and cognitive, that founds and rules the work of objectivation” (BOURDIEU, 2004. p. 33). Following this line, the scientific truth is imposed by means of methods, instruments, and techniques within the following framework: the collective experience of researchers, the disciplines, the context of the field and the habitus (BOURDIEU, 2003).

In turn, the higher-education field would be the social space of the struggle to establish the legitimate monopoly of the academic truth and of what belongs to this world. For the “enshrinement of the social divisions” (CATANI, 2017, p. 98), the players in the conflict are characterized by directing and producing university policies in a “cross network of structural and functional connections” (CATANI, 2017, p. 97), in parts: for one, the elite schools, and for the other, the ruling classes. For another part, also, the specificity of the journalistic field includes, as a pole of larger role, the journalistic business on the commercial level, the journalism in what concerns the technical knowledge, the ethics in obtaining information, beyoung the press, in what concerns the systematic dissemination of news (MIRANDA, 2005).

It is important to highlight, however, that for para Maingueneau (2014), regarding the Works with a delimited sector, one cannot take only the actors into consideration, their positions and their struggle, as we should likewise pay attention to the enunciating identities. As a result, Maingueneau (2014) displaced Bourdieu´s notion of field to the discursive dimension. Thus, he defines field as the “space where different ‘positionings’ interact, sources of enunciations that must take the clashes imposed by the nature of the field, defining and legitimating its own place of enunciation” (MAINGUENEAU, 2014, p. 50).

Thus, the discursive activity is instituted not only by the genres of discourse, but also it acquires meaning when the types of discourse are classified (MAINGUENEAU, 2015). Consequently, if the types of discourse indicate discursive practices of similar area of actity, then there is a relation of reciprocity between the enunciations; therefore, a stabilized network of genres is settled, that is, types of discourse that indicate “ discursive practices linked to the same sector of activity, clusters of genres stabilized by the same social purpose” (MAINGUENEAU, 2015, p. 66).

That is why I also wonder about the discursive types found in the comments of the internet users. Thus, my analysis could also say that a regulated conflict would grant semantic coherence to the discursive formations. Moreover, as the Other would be in the Same, or in the Self, this would case “the essentially dialogical nature of all enunciation of the discourse, the impossibility of dissociating the interaction of discourses from the intra-discursive functioning” (POSSENTI, 2011d, p. 164, original emphasis).

The discursive order in the controversy around the PSU question

In the controversy involving the PSU question, the focus was the validity of the item, as this criterion, in an admission exam, lay among other things in the existence of just one answer that would be correct and truthful, together with other incorrect, therefore false responses. Thus, the discussion about the standardized question in multiple-choice entrance examination could take us to the issue of truth. That is why my study was supported basically by Foucault, since he is the author who resumes Nietzsche´s idea on the will to know and the politics of knowledge, that is, science taken as historical project in the game of truth (CASTRO, 2016).

According to Foucault (2010), between the 16th and 17th centuries, a will to truth emerged and it designs objects, imposes positions, views, functions and it prescribes technically what is useful and verifiable knowledge. The unfolding of the will to truth is reinforced and driven again not only by different practices but also by its form of application, distribution, breakdown, and attribution in society. Thus, the will to truth would serve as a support and an instrument for discursive productions (FOUCAULT, 2003). Based on that, discussing knowledge and truth in Foucault, Possenti (2011c) underlines that both terms are explicitly related to science; however, truth can only be created by means of disciplinary devices, therefore, special discursive regimes.

Although I had expected to find the scientific discourse in the material collected for analysis, it is important to remember that my corpus comes from two levels, that is, it is made up by the comments published about the news in newspapers, and at the same time it displaced the item of the admission exam from the academic university field to the public of those digital newspapers. Such public, because they are outside the strict institutional sphere of the university, produces, as an event, in their comments, perhaps a wide array of discursive positions, including those we could likewise identify the scientific discursive regimes. Besides, the PSU question focused on the group of disciplines of history, geography and social science, which could lead us, therefore, to the own discourses of those disciplines.

This discursive breadth outside the academic university field does not imply that these discourses are not under pressure. For Foucault (2010, p. 8-9), every discourse is under control:

In every society the production of discourse is simultaneously controlled, selected, organized and redistributed by a certain number of procedures whose function is to conjure their powers and dangers, dominate their random event, wriggle their heavy and fearsome materiality.

According to the author (2010), the discourse not only translates the domination but it is also subject to be seized, since it is also an element that is fought for. Hence the importance of the social control over any discourse. One then will ask: in the comments posted in the news forums in the digital newspapers are such controls exerted? Or, bearing Foucault (2010) in mind, could we observe the outline of the exclusion from the game of truth, through the requirement of providing just one answer, the one that is correct and truthful, in the controversial PSU question?

Foucault (2010) lists procedures of external control over the discourse, in whose dimension power and desire are put at stake. Thus, exclusion is a prime procedure; together with it, ban is the second step; exclusion as separation and rejection is a third element; the excluding system as opposition between true and false, in which the will to truth goes through the times as a historical and institutionally restricting system, that is, an excluding system.

Unlike the other two systems of external discursive exclusions, will to truth has been reinforced and deepened, in addition to the fact that it is increasingly inescapable. Thus, institutionally supported, the will to truth tends to “exert over the other discourses […] some kind of pressure and, somehow, a power of duress” (FOUCAULT, 2010, p. 18). Defined as a key issue in my analytical project, I am interested in identifying such duress in comments about the news stories in my corpus.

Along the discursive systems of external controle, Foucault (2010) describes another group of discourses that, in this case, exert its own control through classifying, sorting out, and distributing. They consider, as a principle of rarefaction, internal procedures of control, intended to subject the event and the chance.

One of these procedures is the comment, which by means of constant replacement, is anchored in other discourses, either fundamental or originating, and they operate as things said, they remain as things said and will continue to be things said. Examples of that are the religious scriptures, such as the Bible or the Koran, and the legal and literary-scientific texts. In this regard, the unevenness between comment and fundamental text allows not only to constantly constructo new discourses but also “to say at last what was silently articulated in the prime text” (FOUCAULT, 2010, p. 25, original emphases). Thus, in addition to fulfill the fundamental text, the comment enables such originating text to say something else by means of its return as an event.

I am aware that the comment Foucault (2010) has in mind only signals the canonical texts that are constantly replaced, and as a result they are very different from my corpus – which included the comments of internet users to news stories, and the latter are characterized as ephemerous in time – since Foucault has not mentioned the minor texts. In any case, the news story does not have the same status of a text that is permanently resumed. Nevertheless, I looked for the forms of control of meaning in my corpus: can the internet users signify as the wish the news about the PSU? Are internet users able to just repeat and, at the same time, bring new things about the news on the controversial question in the admission exam? Would we be capable of identifying procedures of discursive control in the field of (scientific) knowledge in the comments by internet users in digital newspaper dealing with a question appearing in a university entrance exam?

The second principle of rarefaction proposed by Foucault (2010) consists of the author deemed as principle of organization, origin and coherence of the discourse. Thus, in this mode, the control of chance in the discourse is done “by the play of an identity that has the form of individuality and of the self” (FOUCAULT, 2010, p. 28, original emphases). We will understand better if we compare the two systems to subject the event being commented on and the author unto the system of limitation ofd disciplines, according to Foucault (2010).

Defined by a set of objects, methods, and truthful propositions, the disciplines oppose the author while they organize themselves as a anonymous system and, at the same time, oppose the comment while they assume the indefinite construction or formulation of new propositions (FOUCAULT, 2010). Thus, according to Foucault (2010), the disciplines are to acknowledge propositions, either true or false, only if they fulfill the requirements and the practices of being “in the truthful”, through the discursive policing and the systematic reupdating of the discursive rules.

A third group of systems of discursive control imposes a set of rules which, as a result, determines the conditions by which the discourse must function, avoiding that anyone – who does not fulfill the requirement or does not qualify – may enter into the order of discourse (FOUCAULT, 2010). Among the forms of this type of discursive control, the most visible is the ritual, which defines the qualification of the speakers and, therefore, the position they should take, the formulations to be expressed, the gestures, the behavior, the circumstances, and the signs in the interventions, that is, the effectiveness of the words used, their effects, and their limits of value (FOUCAULT, 2010).

Within this group of system of discursive control, but functioning in a rather different way, Foucault (2010) also identifies the societies of discourse. These societies distribute the discourse restrictively in a close space, but the appropriation of the secret also functions, up to this day, in the order of the truthful discourse, the public discourse and even the free discourse.

Another group of systems of discursive control, according to Foucault (2010), is the doctrine. It is characterized by maximum possible transmission. In addition to the wide sharing of a common discourse, the doctrine questions not only the enunciation but also the individual who speaks through procedures of exclusion and rejection; this happens because the doctrine indicates a previous belonging by subjecting the individuals to the discourses, and the discourses are subjected to the group. Examples of doctrine are the heresy and orthdoxy.

Anyway, as part of the great procedures of discursive subjection on another level, Foucault (2010) brings the social appropriation of discourses and describes the educational system as a system of discursive control. In turn, this system, as such, focuses on maintaining or modifying the “appropriation of discourses, with the knowledges and the powers they bring along” (FOUCAULT, 2010, p. 44).

In his view, Foucault (2010) sees the method in the analytical effort focused on the rarefaction of discourses. Thus, the discourse will be treated as a discontinuous practice, specifically as a violent practice that is imposed. The reason is that it is in this “practice that the events of discourse find the principle of their regularity” (FOUCAULT, 2010, p. 53).

Thereby, the analytical movement will be guided not towards the inner core of the discourse, but rather towards the conditions of possibilities external to the events that get around the discourse and make way for it. In this perspective, the analysis in addition to the event will consider the series, the regularity, and the condition of possibility together with notions such as coincidence, discontinuity, dependency, and transformation (FOUCAULT, 2010).

Also in book 1 of History of sexuality: the will to know, Foucault (2003) opposes the repressive hypothesis around sex and questions the very fact of talking about sex: who speaks, the places, the points of view, and the institutions that promote it, store and distribute it, the criteria that may serve as a script in our approach to the discourses found in the comments posted in the forums about the news story I analyze here: who is speaking about the controversial question? From what standpoints the question in a university entry exam is dealt with? What are the points of view about the news? What are their institutional supports?

Let us remember that the PSU questions discussed here are part of an admission exam to the formal educational system ; therefore, they are part of a technique that monitors and normalizes, that is, a mechanism that connects forms of power to forms of knowledge, since the “overlapping of relations of power and the relations of knowledge obtain in the exam all of its visible shine” (FOUCAULT, 1987, p. 165). This is what Foucault says in Discipline and Punish (1987, p. 164):

The exam combines the techniques of the hierarchy that monitors and the techniques of penalty that normalizes. It is a normalizing control, a surveillance that allows to qualify. Classify and punish. It establishes onto the individuals a visibility through which they are differentiated and sanctioned.

For Foucault (1987), the exam not only sanctions the learning but it is also a permanent factor in it. Thus, the exam is an exchange of knowledges that may ensure the passage from teacher´s learning to the student´s, and at the same time it “withdraws from the student a knowledge destined and reserved to the master” (FOUCAULT, 1987, p. 166). Then, continues Foucault, “the era of the ‘examinatory’ school marked the beginning of a pedagogy that functions as a science” (FOUCAULT, 1987, p. 166).

In this perspective, according to Foucault (1987), the exam connects a given formation of knowledge and a given exercise of power. First, the exam links an invisible disciplinary power that does not exert upon its subjects its might, but it is exerted as power by means of ceremony, which is the exam; thus, it presents the mechanism of objectivation of its subjects. Secondly, by means of writing, it the exam institutes the subjects as objects capable of being described and analyzed in their singularity. And third, as a ritual, it scientifically attachés the individual differences. After all, the exam would be the center of the constitution of the individual not only as an effect of power but also as an object of knowledge as object of knowledge.

Inspired by the Foucauldian metaphor of the swarm of disciplinary mechanisms, María Angélica Oliva (2017) analyzed the architecture of the Educational Policy in Chile between 1990 and 2014, by reviewing the epistemological capacity of the metaphors in the curriculum. For her (Oliva, 2017), in the Chilean educative policy, there is a persistence of the technical rationality started with the 1965 educational reform, deepened by the Dictatorship and improved by Concertation. Thus, Oliva (2017) indicates the objective of conduct as the primary device in this technical curriculum which produces the effect of adjusting the school system to the neoliberal order; thus, the subsidiarity in the educative policy would assemble, in its birth, the subsidy to the demand and to the technical curriculum.

For Oliva (2017), the objective of conduct is the device intended to normalize the curriculum through, on one hand, the knitting of the conduct, the contents, and the standardization and, on the other hand, the knitting of measurement, control, and assessment. The former three elements, so conceived, because knowledge appears sorted out according to a standard – that is, disciplined by the measurement that defines the behavior and the contents that must be expressed – for a better identification, observation, and evaluation of this objective; the other three elements, because they are configured as a consequence of binding together the formulation, the functioning of the learning goal and the efficiency of such goal.

Finally, Oliva (2010) resumes Casassus (2010, 2011) and indicates that the curricular basis in Chile engages the efficient curriculum, behaviorism, and psychometry. For this reason my quest was for the role of the PSU admission exam in this disciplinary swarm, as well as for the consequences of this exam onto the evaluation and measurement of the academic merit in the access to the higher education in the neoliberal context.

Results

Within my corpus made up of comments to the news about the PSU, I assessed the marks of authorship in order to select what was posted by the internet users (See Figure 5). I then realized I had hundreds of comments for each of the news stories.

Source: www.emol.com.

Figure 5 – Comments by internet users 

Possenti (2011e) says that Foucault discussed the paradox of the death of an author and the hir or her continuous functioning even if they are dead. Foucault (1992) describes the author as the function that allow the aggregation of texts, and it also enables to characterize a way of being of the discourse. Thus, in our society, only a few texts are provided with that function, since “the author function is, then, the characteristic of the way of existence, of circulation, and of the functioning of some discourses within a society” (FOUCAULT, 1992, p. 46).

But Foucault did not examine carefully beyond a work or discursivity (POSSENTI, 2011e). Therefore, a careful examination of the characteristics of authorship in texts such as the comments to the news stories of a newspaper may be uphold the possibility of advancing some theoretical aspects of the theories of enunciation, that is, on the contributions coming from the description of the peculiarities of the comments to the online news story, considering its association with the writing and, therefore, its inscription in the discourse, that is, in the memory, in addition to confronting the hypothesis of a singularity.

As the comments are made of publications by different individuals around the news story, I will rely on the contributions by Possenti (2011b) to assess the clues of authorship in the discourse. Then, even if in a historical position in an institutionalized apparatus, I will consider singularity and the stand taken. Consequently, in my view, the differences in discursivity are not in the what, but rather in the how. Thus, the marks of authorship on the level of the discourse stem from the characterization of the objects and places, or rather, the historicity of the relations of the publications by the internet users in the positions of author with other texts and, therefore, other positions (POSSENTI, 2011b).

Thus, my focus is on the publications with greater historical depth when characterizing the places, the objects, etc. Next, there are four posts from internet users in the newspaper emol.com, on December 3rd and 4th, 2015:

In the marks of authorship of the different internet users, one can see how the facts were depicted in relation to the three propositions of the PSU question. That is, through a series of discursive controls, I analyzed whether the practices of this truth were gradually being depicted in the comments by the internauts.

In this discursive field, in the internauts´ writing, there prevailed the perspective of the third person, sometimes anonymous speeches that did not identify the source. For example, in the use of the pronoun “se” that accompanies the verbs: “que se demuestran en los mapas” [that are demonstrated in the maps (internaut 1)], “La posibilidad de crearse un estado Palestino...” [the possibility of a Palestine state being created (internaut 2)]. This would be the discourse of the disciplines, an impersonal discourse, opposed to authorship and, at the same time, the mark of this authorship in the discursive order.

The PSU question revolves around the systems of external discursive control, in which, while evaluative discourses are rejected and facts are asserted, truth and falsehood are separated in relation to the three propositions of the admission entrance question.

The internauts reject the evaluative or extrascientific aspects. They, they express (my emphases): “mas allá del juicio moral o valórico de la pregunta, está mal en cuanto a los hechos que se demuestran en los mapas” [beyond the value or moral judgment of the question, it is bad regarding the facts appearing in the maps (internaut 1); “no entiendo porque el DEMRE pide disculpas, ¿cual es el error? decir la verdad? [I don´t undertand why DEMRE apologizes, what is wrong? to tell the truth? (internaut 3)]; “tanto escándalo por la pregunta, respecto del año 47 Israel no existía” [such a fuss because of a question, in the year 47 Israel did not exist (internaut 2)]; “esto no es un tema de fábulas religiosas […] hay hechos concretos” [this is not the topic of religious tales… these are true events (internaut 4)].

Moreover, identifying dates and space, that is, sorting out the fact chrnologically, is crucial for the internauts, perhaps as a mathematization (FOUCAULT, 2007) of history placed in time and space (my emphases): “1947 era parte del mandato británico, por lo tanto es erroneo atribuirle tierras tanto a los palestinos como a los judíos” [1947 was part of the British mandate, therefore it is wrong to assign land both to Palestineans and to the Jewish (internaut1)]; “Es una realidad, Israel si ha ido aumentando progresivamente su territorio desde 1947 (basta buscar imágenes en internet para darse cuenta de ello)” [It is real, Israel has been progressively increasing its territory since 1947 (internaut 3)]; “La posibilidad de crearse un estado Palestino está muy lejos de ser una realidad, ya que depende de Israel devolverse a las fronteras del 67” [the possibility of creating a Palestine state is too far from being a reality, as it depends on Israel giving back the frontiers of the year 67 (internaut 2)]; “el tema es simple, es cosa de ver que hizo la ONU en 1947” [the topis is simple, it is something tha UN has done in 1947 (internauts 4)].

Along with what was exposed, the institutional nature of truth is upheld by different institutions. In view of this, it appears a legal discourse in international law or through the discourse on other countries/institutions, but also as a geographic discourse (my emphases): “se incluye a Gaza como territorio Palestino, el cual en ese momento pertenecía a Egipto” [Gaza is included as a Palestinean territory, which at that time belonged to Egypt (internaut 1)]; “y III es obvio que debido a los constantes incidentes entre ambas comunidades no se pueda establecer un estado palestino, de hecho hasta hace muy poco Palestina ni siquiera podía izar su bandera en la ONU” [and III is obvious that due to constant incidents between both communities a Palestienan state cannot be established, in fact until recently Palestine was not even allowed to hoist its flag at the UN (internaut 3)]; “que hipocresía hablar de respetar las resoluciones de la ONU” [it is hypocritical to talk about respecting the UN resolutions (internauts 4); “Es verdad que Estados Unidos los apoya” [it is true that the United States suppport them (internaut 2)].

In the history of facts, a fundamental event to define the truth or error abou the territory in the PSU propositions are the wars. In this perspective, in the comments one can see the will to know knitted to the will to power, to conquer, to rule (my emphases): “recién se llegó a conquistar en 1967 por parte de Israel” [was recently conquered in 1967 by Israel (internaut 1)]; “no olvidemos los conflictos territoriales que tuvo alguna vez con Egipto” [one should not forget the territorial conflicts that already occurred with Egypt (internaut 3); “actualmente le dona tres billones de dólares en armamento” [currently they get 3 billion dollars in weapons (internaut 2)]; “5 países atacaron a Israel. Ahí es cuanto Israel tomó el territorio completo” [5 countries attacked Israel. That is when Israel seized the entire territory (internauts 4)].

After all, in the four clippings of the internet users, the strategies of discursive control that divide truth and falsehood in the PSU question seem to sustain the truth and the error concerning other questions, beyond the admission exam question discussed here. Next, I will present some of this clippings (my emphases): “Seria interesante leer algún comentário basado en los hechos históricos, y no simplemente en juicios valóricos. Estamos hablando de la PSU, la cual debe medir conocimientos y no tendencias. Por tanto, tenía todo de malo [It would interesting to read a comment based on the historical facts and not just on evaluative judgments. We talking about PSU, which is in charge of measuring knowledge, not trends. Therefore, it was very bad (internaut 1)]; “La cultura no hace dano solo la falta de conocimiento, pues es la única forma que las personas sean seres pensantes y no borregos al matadero” [Culture causes no harm as the lack of knowledge does, as it is the only way for you to be a thinking being rather than a lamb in the slaughterhouse (internaut 2)]; “Solo decirles que mantengan sus conflictos bien lejos, que tenemos suficientes con “nuestra” causa mapuche y que vivimos en democracia. Por ende no pueden venir a vetar la información del currículo escolar chileno porque no les gustó” [Just tell them to keep their conflicts far away as we have enough with “our” Mapuch cause and that we live in a democracy. Consequently, they cannot veto information in the Chilean school curriculum because they didn´t like it (internaut 3); “así que si vas a defender lo indefendible, al menos trata de argumentar algo mejor pensado” [if you are doing to defend what is indefensible, at least use better arguments (internaut 4)]; “en esta lógica chile debiese devolver tierras a bolivia, te parece? [according to the logic Chile should return land to Bolivia, don´t you think? (internaut 4)].

As can be seen, the internet users define what would be the historical facts, what is knowledge or thinking, what are the characteristics of the Chilean state´s conflict with the Mapuche cause, or the contents of the bordering conflict of the Chilean state with Peru and Bolívia etc. That is to say, organized around the will to truth, in the comments to the news about the PSU question, the external discursive control assigns a strength of scientific truth into a spread of positions appearing in the comments in topics that go far beyond the news, thus establishing a intra-discursive functioning open to the other, therefore establishing the primacy of the inter-discourse.

In this case, the consideration of a controversial material, that is, of a material in relation of otherness with the other around the question in the Chilean university entry exam, allowed to give substance to the discourses by the internauts. The clippings present not only obvious pre-constructs of the discursive formation that we have already described, which were resumed by the internauts, but also they allows us to observe elements that were denied, refused and put aside by the commenters of the publication of the digital newspaper, at it is the case of rejecting what is extra-scientific or other opinions legitimated through a scientific discourse. For example, one of the posts says: “mas allá del juicio moral o valórico de la pregunta, está mal en cuanto a los hechos que se demuestran en los mapas” [beyond the moral or evaluative judgment of the question, it is bad regarding the facts that are demonstrated in the maps (internaut 1)]; in this case, the other is given just a moral judgment rather than a scientific one, therefore, it is outside the truth. A second internaut says: “La cultura no hace dano solo la falta de conocimiento, pues es la única forma que las personas sean seres pensantes y no borregos al matadero” [Culture causes no harm as the lack of knowledge does, as it is the only way for you to be a thinking being rather than a lamb in the slaughterhouse (internaut 2)]; here the other has no culture, nor knowledge, nor are they thinking beings, they are just lambs in the slaughterhouse. Therefore, if, on one hand, the external discursive control assigns a strength of scientific truth in a spread of positions in the comments in topics beyond the PSU question, on the other hand, the comments appear in a controversy with the other. The, the strength of scientific truth found in the comments to the news story also upholds not what the other is; it upholds, furthermore, its simulacrum.

Thus, I propose that the comments by the internet users about the PSU news story present the other as a simulacrum ; therefore, an effect of the construction in the controversy around the PSU question that indicates both the dialogical aspect of all discursive enunciation, that is, the Other in the Same, as well as the very refraction of the stabilization of genres in the field of activity of the comments on internet news.

To better express my perspective, I will compare the comments clipped with the commented official answer to a PSU question, of which I wish to observe the discursive rules, specifically the discursive controls aforementioned in the comments to the news (DEMRE, 2014).

If we take a look at the clipping of question 29, from the test of history, geography, and social science in 2012, we will be able to distinguish a question concerning la resistencia indígena” (the indigenous resistance) in today´s territory of Chile, but it happened in the 17th century, that is, a military conflict (or a war) and is dated in time and geographically located.

Source: DEMRE (2014).

Figure 6 – PSU question 29 on history, geography, and social science 

In the same way that in the comments to the news about the PSU question, we could see the discursive construction of the truthful historical fact: not only the military conflict (or war), dated in time and geographically located, but also its institutionalization in some cities (Chile, Santiago, Tucapel, Curalaba) and its representatives (Governor).

Next, we can observe the comments by the DEMRE assessors in official answer for the 2012 admission exam of history, geography, and social science:

Source: DEMRE (2014).

Figure 7 – Comments on question 29, for the history, geography, and social science PSU 

As indicated above, in the comments on the DEMRE official answer, one sees the delimitation of dates and space: “Entre las formas de rechazo estuvo el enfrentamiento, y en relación a ello se observa la reacción de los indígenas de la cuenca de Santiago que atacaron y destruyeron la incipiente villa en septiembre de 1541” [among the forms of rejection, there was the confrontation and, in relation to it, one observes the reaction by the Indians from the Santiago basin who attacked and destroyed the incipient village in September, 1541 (DEMRE, 2014, p. 7, my emphases)].

The institutional dimension of the truth is supported by different institutions represented by their authorities: “la batalla de Tucapel, que provocó la muerte de Pedro de Valdivia, primer Gobernador de Chile” [the battle of Tucapel which caused the death of Pedro de Valdivia, first Governor of Chile (DEMRE, 2014, p. 7, my emphases)].

Wars also define the truth or error about the PSU propositions, therefore, the will to truth and the will to power and conquer: “En el transcurso del siglo XVI, os mapuches demostraron una gran capacidad de adaptación, aplicando nuevas estrategias bélicas” [Along the 16th century, the Mapuches showed great capacity to adapt by deploying new warlike strategies (DEMRE, 2014, p. 7, my emphases)].

In the corpus analyzed, one notes that the discursive control over the scientific view persists. However, when the commented official PSU answer is compared to the comments on the news about the PSU, one also sees two differences. First, there is no explicit rejection of the extra scientific aspects. Second, the different opinions with which the internet users close their comments in the clipping here analyzed are taken — between the question and the comments — by the file of curricular reference, which consists of the guiding topic of Chile´s historical roots, the unity in the construction of a mestizo identity, the contents of the Spanish triumph, and the comprehension skill. For that reason, my intent has been to understand that the strategies of discursive control in the commented official answer which separate truth from falsehood fulfill the same function of scientifically legitimating the opinions or valuations that are found in the comments on the news about the PSU. In the case of the official answer, scientifically legitimated is the mandatory curriculum for Chilean high-schools.

Then, more than representing or mirrowing the curriculum, through a series of discursive controls, the university admission exam may provide the Chilean curriculum with strength of scientific truth ; especially, in my case, the construction of mestizo identity in the pivot of Chile´s history.

Another consequence may be drawn. If we start from Oliva´s (2017) proposal, we may have a first contour of the primary device of the technical curriculum based on competences in relation to the university entry exam in Chile. Highly ritualized, the admission exam not only pressures and legitimates the curriculum but it is also part of the efficiency control of the process of the learning objective. Therefore, the scientific discourse around the admission exam question assesses, pressures, and legitimates the technical curriculum, that is to say, the curriculum based on compentences, at the same time as the PSU, as a semiotic-social practice, may make up the individual as effect of power and, simultaneously, object of knowledge.

Conclusions

We were able to observe the rule of discursive formation by comparing the clippings of the comments in which the internauts followed the same rules to support their positions around the question in the admission exam. Some of them argued that the question was wrong; others said the question was correct, that is, due to such positions, we could take a look at the place that allows for incompatible interests or “a field of strategic possibilities” (FOUCAULT, 1972, p. 50).

Based on my corpus, in which the PSU question has gone around in the digital media, I suggested that the strategies of discursive control which benefit the impersonal use of the language give importance to the war and to the institutional dimension, and the international law in the spread of possible comments show a refraction that is peculiar to the discursive field of a university admission exam, standardized and scientific, in the confrontation that interweaves power and knowledge. At the same time, the emergence of topics together with the exam question may be the refraction of the journalism field, especially in the internet social forums as an hyper-genre – which, in this sense, leave room to resume what has already been said in the news, aside from bringing what is new. But, as I see it theoretically, the news Stories are not canonical texts nor the internet users are authorized to enshrine the news as intellectual works.

I was able to observe different systems of discursive control. In the posts, the extra-scientific was rejected by placing the facts in time and space, by quantifying them and by their institutional validity; in addition, facts were affirmed and divided in truthful and false, so that, eventually, other definitions were added to the problem. Moreover, internauts resume the news but also the other, specifically the other as a simulacrum.

Finally, I have identified in the comments discourses that mathematize history and underline disciplinary discourses as the geographic discourse and the legal discourse. And, especially, the games of truth, both in the comments about the controversy involving the PSU question and in the comments in the official answer, emerged pressuring, or rather, sustaining the expansion of the discourses not only about the admission exam question but also about other questions. Among those questions, the most important one in my view could be the mandatory curriculum in the Chilean high-school and higher education: the curriculum based on competences. Therefore, in face of what I have proposed to analyze, I conclude, firstly, that the discursive controls in the games of power and truth are in operation not only to assess and discipline the mandatory curriculum in compliance with the neoliberal order, but also to legitimate it on scientific basis; in my case, specifically, to legitimate the unity of the curriculum for the construction of the mestizo identity in the Spanish colonization; secondly, that the discursive controls in the games of power and truth in the university entry exam are decisive to make up the candidates as effect of power and, at the same time, as object of knowledge, that is, the production of candidates that are either competent or incompetent in accessing higher education.

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3- University Selection Test (PSU, in its acronym in Spanish).

4- Department of Educational Measurement and Registry (DEMRE, in its Spanish acronym).

Received: January 18, 2018; Accepted: February 20, 2018

María Paulina Castro Torres is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Program in Education, a member of the Research Group on Thinking and Language in the School of Education, at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). She is also an undergraduate of the Department of Psychology, School of Social Science in the University of Chile.

1

- University Selection Test (PSU, in its acronym in Spanish).

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