"The guardians of the general interest": Discourses of knowledge in QI

Brett Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Through an analysis of the British comedy quiz show QI (BBC2/BBC4, 2003-7; BBC1, 2008-), this article examines the ways in which "knowledge" as a discourse is constructed, maintained, and disseminated in popular television. The article draws on the work on discourse of Michel Foucault as well as sociological analyses of education and knowledge from writers such as Karl Mannheim and Pierre Bourdieu. The analysis explores the ways in which being knowledgeable is performed as well as the ways in which knowledge is related to issues of class and gender, particularly in a British context.The article argues that knowledge in QI is dependent on empiricism and posits the value of knowledge as being related to ideas of the civilized gentleman, showing how it is used to promote idea of "appropriate" behavior. While acknowledging the ways in which participants in the program may dissent against its discourses, the article concludes that, while the series may aim to undercut conventional ideas of education, it nevertheless resolutely upholds and promotes ideas of knowledge that sociologists have demonstrated maintain social divisions and power hierarchies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-153
Number of pages18
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2011


  • discourse
  • education
  • knowledge
  • QI
  • television


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