Wal-Mart's presentation to the community: discursive practices in mitigating risk, limiting public discussion, and developing a relationship

Discourse and Communication 3 (3):235-254 (2009)
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Abstract

This study examines Wal-Mart representatives' presentation to the community on their site plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Given the ongoing controversy and criticisms from local residents, it is interesting to see Wal-Mart's strategies in attenuating these risks and negative impacts. The discursive practices found here are: formulating prior citizen complaints by a neutral-sounding, legalistic language which works euphemistically or as a gloss. Citizen concerns are fitted into a problem-solution format where the solutions involve engineering technology. The Wal-Mart representatives display their expertise through describing these technological answers. Scientific documents or tests are presented which point to counter-intuitive results. They draw on a discourse of `facts' and `information', but use these to make arguments in support of their proposals. In addition to displaying scientific-technological expertise, they avow openness to dialogue and willingness to work with the town. The Wal-Mart representatives present themselves as both technical experts and trustworthy partners, but they also may be seen as rhetor in using facts, findings, and documents to make an argument for their project.

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