Aletta Norval

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Aletta Norval is a South-African born political theorist. A prominent member of the Essex School of discourse analysis, she is mainly known for her deconstructionist analysis of Apartheid discourse, for her methodological contributions to discourse analysis and for her work on democratic theory.

Norval studied political science at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa) and discourse analysis at Essex University. She received MA and PhD degrees from the prestigious ‘Ideology and Discourse Analysis’ programme at the University of Essex. Her doctoral thesis, completed under the supervision of Ernesto Laclau, was entitled ‘Accounting for Apartheid: Its Emergence, Logic and Crisis’.

Following her graduation from doctoral studies, Norval started an academic career at the Department of Government at Essex University, where she is currently Reader. She is also Director of the PhD Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis and co-director of the Centre for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, both founded by Ernesto Laclau.

Her research interests include discourse analysis and deconstruction, contemporary democratic theory, feminism, South-African politics, ethnicity and the politics of race.

She has authored and co-edited many books and has published numerous articles in journals such as: Journal of Political Ideologies; Political Theory; Diacritics; Philosophy and Social Criticism; Constellations; Political Studies; Acta Philosophica; Critical Discourse Studies; British Journal of Political Science.


  • Aversive Democracy: Inheritance and Originality in the Democratic Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Deconstructing Apartheid Discourse (London: Verso, 1996)
  • 'n Teoretiese Studie van die Metodologie van Kruiskulturele Houdingsmeting (A Theoretical Inquiry into the Methodology of Cross-Cultural Attitude Research) (Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 1984; second edition 1993)
  • (co-edited with David Howarth and Yannis Stavrakakis) Discourse Theory and Political Analysis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)
  • (co-edited with David Howarth) South Africa in Transition: New Theoretical Perspectives (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998)


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