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A communication analysis of moral orientations in testimony regarding Guam commonwealth legislation

Kathryn M Gunderson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study is to examine a situated instance of discourse, in this case testimony during the Congressional hearings in Honolulu on Guam commonwealth legislation, and to locate this testimony in the system of commonwealth negotiations. Texts are analyzed for underlying moral orders through multiple readings which tease out moral orientations of care and justice. Additionally, the testimony is examined for central metaphors and the various ways in which the island is imagined as a community. The moral orders are then juxtaposed to display similarities and differences between them. Finally, in identifying some underlying assumptions about conflict, the place of the hearings in the larger context of commonwealth negotiations is examined.^ Most moral orders represented in the testimony were some combination of care and justice orientations. The moral voice of care most frequently spoke of "pain." Those texts which included a justice orientation made frequent references to "rights." An instance which encapsulates the way in which moral orientations of care and justice are combined in the testimony is found in the visions shared for Guam's new relationship (an aspect of care) with the U.S.: one based on fairness (an aspect of justice). A central metaphor of Guam as adolescent in the American political family surfaced across all categories of moral order. The analysis exposes the great diversity underlying the statements, bringing to the fore deep-rooted differences which account for the seeming interminability of the conflict.^ This study extends the application of moral order analysis beyond personal narrative into a different form of communication, political testimony. In the secondary analysis for metaphor and imagined communities, connections are made between human development theory and international political relations. The language of family masks the power imbalance in the Guam-U.S. relationship as parental concern. Within the context of commonwealth negotiations, the hearings in Honolulu function to reconstruct a pattern of quiescence in which the people of Guam are persuaded by symbolic means that progress is being made toward defining a new political relationship with the U.S. ^

Subject Area

Asian history|Communication|Political science

Recommended Citation

Gunderson, Kathryn M, "A communication analysis of moral orientations in testimony regarding Guam commonwealth legislation" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233066.