HomeSpeaking to Dominate ? Words, Discourse, and Power Plays

Speaking to Dominate ? Words, Discourse, and Power Plays

Parler pour dominer ? Paroles, discours et rapports de pouvoir

Revue Autrepart n°76

*  *  *

Published on Monday, June 30, 2014 by João Fernandes

Summary

Analyzing speech practices in context provides valuable insights into social interactions, in particular power or hierarchical relations. The power of words is well known, especially in media and politics. But these words only become meaningful when articulated, and their power is only effective within a specific discourse tied to a particular performance context. While these questions have crossed disciplines such as anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy, they are also pertinent to other areas of the social sciences and humanities. Gender and generational relations, or the assertion of indigenous, political, religious, and linguistic affiliations, are important subjects of study that highlight questions of power, ability to act, and the effectiveness of words.

Announcement

Argument

Analyzing speech practices in context provides valuable insights into social interactions, in particular power or hierarchical relations. The power of words is well known, especially in media and politics. But these words only become meaningful when articulated, and their power is only effective within a specific discourse tied to a particular performance context. Power relations and strategies of domination are not only expressed in actions but also in words, and in very diverse forms: Naming and elaborating a political or religious discourse, or relying on a specific language in a politically tense linguistic context, are all examples of the exercise of power in relation to words. While these questions have crossed disciplines such as anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy, they are also pertinent to other areas of the social sciences and humanities. Gender and generational relations, or the assertion of indigenous, political, religious, and linguistic affiliations, are important subjects of study that highlight questions of power, ability to act, and the effectiveness of words.

These questions are raised in a new way in societies of the Southern countries, where political reforms, such as decentralization and changes in political regimes, can become the arena for discourses regarding the appropriation of power, where union struggles use particular discursive strategies; where the official language of the administration, schools, health and other basic public services can exclude in a multilingual context ; where the implementation of participatory development projects presuppose certain wording patterns; where even place names can be the object of land ownership strategies, to name but a few examples.

Power is in fact linked to word. The more hierarchical the society is, the more the access to speech is codified. But while social status may facilitate one’s right to speak, those who are supposedly subordinate may also take a stand and make their voices heard in the political arena, especially through specific language practices. In their everyday life, those who are dominated thus create linguistic interstices that can confront, or even challenge, the social order. One’s relation to domination can also be normative; indeed, research has shown that contesting the norm also means incorporating or re-appropriating it (Butler, Mahmood). In these contexts, researchers can become involved in a process in which they do not understand the issues; they can even be manipulated by their interlocutors who use them for their own ends. We will thus encourage contributions that adopt a reflexive approach.

Main themes

The following themes can be broached in this issue, either independently or in relationship to one another. The suggested themes do not exclude other possibilities. Contributions, which can stem from all disciplines in the social sciences, should be based on fieldwork in different the Southern countries.

Topics may address the way in which language can be a tool to exercise power (or to dominate others through a series of manipulations), or the object of these manipulations. This theme is illustrated by political and religious discourses and by the construction of historical discourses that highlight the memory of a people or nation, as much by the circumstances in which they are elaborated and the contexts in which they are said, and by the expected effects on their audience. But strategies of domination through language can also be exercised in other ways, observable in smaller-scale interactions such as greeting, gossip or rumors, or everyday utterances which demonstrate the identity of the interlocutors. Contributions that focus on naming practices (humans, places, objects) can also apply to this theme: naming can indeed be a means of exercising power over others, but it can also be a way to counter or ridicule this exercise of power. With this in mind, we can explore whether language practices such as coded slang or verbal arts (rap, slam, etc.) stem from the very logic of domination and represent a form of emancipation from power, especially governmental power.

The mastery of language is key to establishing power relations, whether interlocutors speak a specific language or use different registers (e.g., professional jargon). Understanding the local language can be fundamental to the implementation of development projects, but it can also establish unequal relations of power or hierarchy between different actors in a project. Establishing a specific linguistic policy (both national and international, such as the « Francophonie »), can also generate power relations. The will to write and publish in one’s own language can also be linked to linguistic strategies that exist in conjunction with or in opposition to power.

Finally, the rapid development of new forms of technologies has led to the birth of such speech « spaces » as Internet, Facebook, Twitter hitherto unknown in the Southern countries. We should investigate the forms of communication inherent to these technologies and the nature of power relations or domination in such contexts. These new information and communications technologies (NTIC) imply new forms of writing and new forms of orality, placing words in a global and transnational context that profoundly modifies situations of traditional communication. 

Submission guidelines

Proposal (title and abstract not exceeding 150 words) must be sent to the journal Autrepart

before 30th June 2014

The articles selected have to be submitted by 30th September 2014

Book reviews on the topic of this issue must be sent to the journal Autrepart before 30th October 2014

 autrepart@ird.fr ; revue.autrepart@gmail.com

Scientific Editors

  • Sandra BORNAND (linguistic anthropologist, National Center for Scientific Research, France)
  • Alice DEGORCE (anthropologist, Institute of Research for Development, France)
  • Cécile LEGUY (Professor of linguistic anthropology, University Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, France)

Date(s)

  • Monday, June 30, 2014

Keywords

  • discour, rapport de pouvoir

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Alice Degorce
    courriel : alice [dot] degorce [at] ird [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Speaking to Dominate ? Words, Discourse, and Power Plays », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 30, 2014, https://calenda.org/291451

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal