XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010


RC homepage


Research Committee on
Language and Society RC25

Programme Coordinator
Ilkka Arminen, University of Tampere, Finland, ilkka.arminen@uta.fi
Celine-Marie Pascale, American University, US, Pascale@american.edu

Congress Programme


Sessions descriptions

Session 1:  Language and the economy
Joint session of RC02 Economy and Society and RC25 Language and Society [host committee]

Session 2: Emergency communication
Organizer: Isabella Paoletti, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, isabella.paoletti@fcsh.unl.pt

Emergency services by means of control rooms coordinate the delivery of help. The operators have to take decisions on which means and personnel to involve in an event on the base of the information they manage to obtain from callers.  There is an established field of research of emergency calls, between callers and call takers in particular: interactional organization of calls. Previous studies on emergency calls have often focussed on single calls related to an emergency, but several calls dealing with the same event are not uncommon; indeed operators often receive several calls about the same event from different callers, or take part in several calls with the same caller about an event.  Generally the dispatch of help is organized through a series of calls between operator and caller/s and various emergency services: ambulance crew, fire brigade and police officers etc. The impact on communication processes of different organization of emergency services and the technology used worldwide has still to be studied. Furthermore, overloaded emergency call centers because of disasters present specific problems that have to faced and foreseen.

Above all it is noticeable a need for collaboration; collaboration with the public in order to understand what is happening in the scene of the event, but collaboration is also important between professionals affiliated with different agencies in order to coordinate the appropriate means of help. At times, the collaboration is made incredibly difficult by organizational procedures and prescribed response options, communication difficulties, technical problems etc.  Paucity of information increases the potential for errors that may very well have fatal consequences and legal implications.
The panel invites contributions from different methodological perspectives: ethnography, ethnomethodology, conversational analysis, discourse studies, sociology of disaster etc.

Session 3: Minority languages and language policy
Organizer: Roland Terborg, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico, roland.terborg@gmail.com
All over the world, minority languages are dying while some languages are expanding. This is true for immigrant languages and it is especially the case for indigenous languages whose speakers are shifting from their native language to former colonial languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French or shifting to culturally dominant national languages such as Italian, Swedish, German, Japanese, Russian and Chinese. Many factors affect language shifts and language maintenance, perhaps most important is the effect of local language policy, which may be either planned or unplanned.  This panel will consider language shifts and maintenance principally in relationship to language use and transmission to younger speakers and less so in structural phenomena like code-switching, code-mixing and developing of pidgin.

The purpose of this panel is to bring together papers which will present different cases of minority language communities whose speakers are shifting from their local to a dominant language, or whose speakers are successfully maintaining some vitality of their local language under the light of local or regional language policy.

Session 4: Institutional structure and the public discourse
Organizer: Natalie P. Byfield, St. John’s University, US, byfieldn@stjohns.edu
This panel examines through theoretical and empirical research whether or not internal institutional structures represent a type of language given the possible relationship between the public discourse and these internal structures.  And, it further examines how the public discourse transforms internal organizational structures.

Research on the structure of media and its relationship to other institutions in society suggests a strong relationship between media’s internal practices and organizational structures and the public discourse (van Dijk 1993; Luhmann 2000; Tuchman 1978).  Often the studies of media come to these conclusions based on investigations of media that must incorporate its status as a knowledge-based system in which one cannot make distinctions between “external objects” and the knowledge of those objects inside the system (Luhmann 2000).  Thus, central to many studies of the media are the media producers and the internal organizational processes they use to construct media products.  My own research suggests the internal organizational structure of media organizations may represent a type of language in the public discourse. 
But, what of other types of institutions, particularly those that are not knowledge based.  Since language has the added effect of incorporating reflexivity in media as well as other systems and limiting determinism, how are internal organizational structures being transformed by the public discourse? 

Session 5: Bringing intercultural communication to the fore: theories, narratives, discourses and forms of interaction
Organizer: Federico Farini, University of Modena-Reggio Emilia, Italy, federico.farini@unimore.it
It’s been a long time since professionals in institutional settings have learned that particular  problems may emerge when communication with clients  becomes intercultural. Nowadays, all institutional settings involve theories, narratives and discourses concerning professional-client interaction in intercultural settings. However, institutional practices may involve aims that are not articulated as “goals” or “ideals”. For instance, control or sanctioning against deviance, where cultural differences may be treated as deviance, are among such hidden but nevertheless constitutive aims.

Intercultural communication happens in a myriad of non-institutional  contexts as well, for instance in groups of young people or in workplaces, where differences in the opportunity of active participation may not be related to institutional asymmetries in power but rather to practices of marginalization and exclusion based on empirically describable intercultural narratives, discourses and forms of interaction. This session means to bring causes and implications of social inclusion, as well as causes of social exclusion and inequalities in an intercultural society to the fore, considering them as they materialize in intercultural narratives, discourses and interactional practices both in institutional and informal contexts. The session welcomes papers which analyze intercultural narratives, discourses and forms of interaction through  conversation analysis, ethnomethodology, member categorization analysis, narrative analysis, discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis.

Session 6: Hegemonies in classification processes
Organizer: Henk Koerten, Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands, H.Koerten@tudelft.nl, Gianluca Miscione, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, The Netherlands, miscione@itc.nl and Daniela Landert, University of Zurich, daniela.landert@es.uzh.ch
Classifications serve as shared systems to organize and handle knowledge in any given domain. Classifications depend on language to provide labels for classes and on linguistic practices to establish, apply and reproducing classifications. Successfully established classifications affect thinking and coordination of social activities across different settings and actors. The role of classifications is becoming more evident since organizing processes are increasingly taking place across dispersed individuals, groups, organizations and contexts, a development that is supported by information and communication technologies (ICT).Indeed, when the common understanding and coordination are not facilitated by co-location, classifications are expected to keep patterns of action aligned.

Clear examples for this development can for instance be found in the two fields of health care and of online communities. In the case of health care, information about patients needs to travel with and beyond the patients themselves, in order to allow consequent actions to be performed by a variety of actors. In the case of online communities, classifications are often negotiated collaboratively among globally dispersed laypersons. This leads to shifts in power between these laypersons and the experts of hegemonic classifications.

The mutual dependency of power and classifications raises the question how changes in the roles of the actors who negotiate classifications affect and maybe challenge power relations and hegemonies in a wider sense. Therefore, the “double hermeneutic” between those who are usually termed ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ has to be revised, mutual dependency between classifications and their objects needs to be highlighted.

Session 7:  Multiple orders of interaction
Organizer: Ilkka Arminen, University of Tampere, Finland,  ilkka.arminen@uta.fi
Harvey Sacks’ idea of order-at-all-points invites us to explicate 'the order at all points' at the organization of society. The idea is to work out this-and-that of what the world is made up. This vision has made relevant a perspective on social action as a situated accomplishment that emerges from its practical management within language, social configuration and material resources. Workplace studies and anthropology of practices are among approaches that have started to synthesize ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and ethnography. This session invites scholars who study multimodality of social actions, reconfigurations of social actions with the help of media and technology, dynamic views on the relationship between language and context, new developments in the way in which the social, cultural, material and sequential structures figure together into the organization of action.

Session 8:  New language forms in computer-mediated communication
Organizer: Corinne Kirchner, Columbia University, USA, ck12@columbia.edu
Technologies afford new possibilities for people to act and communicate in the course of their various activities. Technologies also alter the spatiotemporal organization of everyday life routines as they create new forms of language, communication and social practices. Technologies may also open new arenas for communication, such as blogs or mobblogs, transfiguring the ways of presenting oneself. Ultimately these reconfigurations materialize in the language use.  We take up discussion of how ICT, internet and mobile phone applications (e.g., telephone, SMS, camera, MMS and the Internet) are altering language and interaction. This session invites scholars who have investigated the possibilities and challenges of the use of various technologies for communication and social interaction.

Session 9:  The practices of codeswitching
Organizer: Paramasivam Muthusamy, University Putra, Malaysia, mparam98@hotmail.com
While code-switching had previously been investigated as a matter of peripheral importance within the more narrow tradition of research on bilingualism, it has now moved into a more general focus of interest for sociolinguists, psycholinguists and interactional linguists. It is also a key phenomenon that ties together the linguistics and sociology, and the study of social identities. Code-switching does not simply reflect social situations, but it is a means to create them, and also structure talk in interaction. This session invites different perspectives on code-switching from sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, discourse analysis, interactional linguistics and ethnography.

Session 10: Postcoloniality: Identity, knowledge & discourse
Organizer: Erzebet Barat, Central European University, HU, b_zsazsa@freemail.hu
Colonization seeks to produce not only language dominance but also particular sets of interests and perspectives among colonized people, which are intended to support the stabilization of the colonial power.  Yet the languages of colonial powers have also been used to produce “postcolonial” works that are changing, perhaps even transforming, the literature, film, and music of the imperial states.  At the same time, many scholars, such as Sanya Osha in Nigeria, have argued that the uncritical consumption of colonial scholarship across Africa has produced Euro-centric scholarship that is institutionally rewarded but which can never escape a kind of intellectual bondage. In other countries, such Australia, post-colonial movements seek to return to indigenous languages.  Yet the return to indigenous languages is troubled by the potential consequence of increased global isolation.  This section explores language and identity in post-colonial contexts.  It seeks to raise questions of hybridity, belonging and isolation as related to issues of language and culture.

Session 11:  Sociology and language
Organizer: Celine-Marie Pascale, American University, US Pascale@american.edu
Sociological studies of language have benefited from two disciplinary forces: changing and contested notions of what constitutes a social science; and, deeper appreciation for the inseparability of symbolic practices and material realities.  In the last forty years, more sociologists have turned to a broad range of theories and methods for apprehending the sociological importance of language.  Yet, around the globe, studies of language are still being rejected as falling outside the domain of sociology. This panel explores broad disciplinary questions regarding studies of language and production of knowledge. In keeping with the ISA them of sociology on the move, this panel asks: At the start of the 21st century, what does it mean to produce sociological studies language?
Themes for paper submissions may include but are not limited to:

Session 12: Discourses of anti-racism
Organizer: Melissa Steyn, University of Cape Town, SA,  Melissa.Steyn@uct.ac.za
While state-sanctioned racism has not been eliminated, it continues to be challenged around the globe. What is the place of racial categories in discourses seeking an end to discrimination?  On what bases might we distinguish between progressive and regressive tactics if both demand an end to racial categories?  How might the presidency of Barak Hussein Obama in the U.S. affect anti-racist discourse on a global level?  If the the discourses of reconciliation have been necessary to heal the scars of apartheid, what language is needed to bring about equity? What forms of anti-racist discourse are engendered by immigration?  To what extent are discourses of anti-racism determined by discourses of racism? This panel explores the effectiveness and contexts for anti-racist discourses in theory and in practice.

Session 13: Language & identity in education
Organizer: Antonia Randolph, University of Delaware, US, arandolp@UDel.Edu
Schools are important sites for production, reproduction and legitimization of the official language of the nation-state.  Education produces both cultural and linguistic literacy that support a functioning state.  In classrooms, students are socialized into hegemonic culture through the texts they study and the cultural environments of schools.  The imbricated relationship of hegemonic culture and linguistic dominance results in students becoming marginalized in school because of accents, use of non-standard forms of speech, and the competing demands that arise from using primary language at home that is different from the primary language at school.   This section explores what Pierre Bourdieu called linguistic capital with educational settings.  In particular, it takes up issues of the classroom in relation to educational discourse, linguistic racialization, the language and social class, gendered discourses, as well as the “mis-use” and reinvention of language as forms of resistance by students.

Session 14: The Language of terror
Joint Session of RC25 Language and Society [host committee] and RC36 Alineation Theory and Research

Session 15: Business Meeting

Session 16:  Dinner
Convenor: Ilkka Arminen, University of Tampere, Finland, ilkka.arminen@uta.fi

Session 17: Gender and sexuality and discourses on citizenship
Joint session of RC25 Language and Society and RC32 Women in Society [host committee]