ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014

Research Committee on
Language and Society, RC25

RC25 main page

Program Theme: The Language of Inequality


Program Coordinators

Number of allocated sessions including Business Meeting: 14.


For sessions program and schedule see

On-line congress program


Activism, Media and Justice

Session Organizers
Roberta VILLALON, St. John’s University, USA,
Natalie BYFIELD, St. John’s University, USA,

Session in English

Texts – cultural representations that are signifiers of social interactions, practices, institutions, structures – inevitably reflect and often challenge power and power relations. The varied components, forms, and uses of language and the structures of discourse result from and contribute to multiple constructions, deconstructions and reconstructions of intersecting relations of inequality. In this panel, we seek to explore the relationships between the languages of collective struggles for equality, and the ways in which they converge and/or diverge with media and systems of justice across the world.

The realms of activism, media, and justice have all different paces, dynamics and structures. The three, however, are interrelated. For example, activists make use of media to communicate their demands and raise their claims for justice, while media re-interpret those messages as they disseminate news about collective struggles’ losses and gains, as the justice system absorbs and/or rejects such collective demands in various degrees.

The languages spoken in each realm as well as the possible conversations and understandings between them are rich sites of sociological investigation: they function as magnifying lenses for embedded inequalities and the unfolding of struggles to alter power relations. Intersecting gender, sexual, class, racial, and ethnic social inequalities filter and feed languages, discourses, and conversations of and between activists, media, and justice systems, while all these struggle to keep or dismantle the very same inequalities. Researchers across the world are welcome to share particular analyses of such relationships while contributing to theoretical debates on the links between language, inequalities, and power broadly defined.


Identity and Institutional Categorization

Session Organizer
Frida PETERSSON, University of Gothenburg, Sweden,

Session in English

This session is concerned with language and interaction, with an emphasis on the way language functions and is used within institutional settings and through institutional dialogues. Institutional categories such as “homeless”, “unemployed”, or “alcoholics” with accompanying subcategories, are used to make sense of the circumstances, lives and personal concerns of the help-seeking individuals, as well as to facilitate and legitimize decisions. While such categories may be crucial for professional work, these discursive environments also produce more or less stigmatized institutional identities.

However, those who are attributed troubled identities do not simply accept them but talk back or develop counter discourses. In this session we will from a micro-sociological perspective explore how institutional discourses exercise power, create, reproduce and express inequality. This links to the overall conference theme on facing inequality, in that it mirrors the broader global debate relating to the rhetoric and discretionary power of human service organizations working with groups “at the margins” of society.

In this session the aim is to explore situated talk and interaction in a variety of institutional practices, representing many different voices, including the ones of clients/users, from different perspectives. Participants are encouraged to use and expand new theoretical and analytical approaches and ideas on this subject matter. Papers based on theoretically informed empirical studies are especially welcome.


Markets, Power and Language

Session Organizer
Laura GARCIA LANDA, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico,

Session in English

Globalization has intensified both the internationalization of workplaces and increasing demands for information. The increasing importance of information and information technologies has meant that language has a central role in economy, while increasing internationalization makes the management of linguistic diversity a top priority. All of this takes place within the context of dramatic changes in immigration policies and labor organization. An increasing number of agents, such US multinational companies and transnational political elites (i.e. European Commission), are contributing to new language policies aimed at language hegemonies within specific markets or specific social contexts.

The widespread use of English in specific markets (science, business, technologies) can be understood as a part of this new hegemony, which serves the particular interests of dominant groups on global scale. The presence of new actors and their language policies require that we revisit Bourdieu’s assumptions regarding the presence of a State-based unified marketplace for language. At the same time, this new context also directs us consider Bourdieu`s approach to the ways that people who are ‘legitimate language’ agents can exercise their social competence, their social power, and can impose their authority.

Depending on the market and the relations of power, the same discourse may produce different effects (profit/price) depending on the degree of legitimacy that the speaker has on the market. From the perspective of linguistic diversity, in a context of extended diglossia, language learning and language choice becomes crucial to have success in a context of competence for resources. In this session we seek papers that explore the relationships among language diversity and workplace practices in both public and private organizations.


Migrations and Conditions of Belonging

Session Organizer
Erzsebet BARAT, University of Szeged, Hungary,

Session in English

This session seeks talks that explore the relationship between linguistic and cultural dimensions of (collective) identity formation. We expect papers that situate their research within multilingual/multicultural context and examine the complex interpersonal negotiations of diverse ideologies of belonging.

We are interested in papers that problematize the commonsense assumption and its ideological effects that adoption of languages (dialects) should automatically and inherently entail adoption of life style. This assumption can result in apparently oppositional dominant language ideologies that “speaking the local language” should be a ‘natural’ cause for either a concern (in hostile dispositions towards “invasion”) or automatic satisfaction (interested in unproblematic ‘integration’), yet equally producing relations of inequality.

The papers should therefore ideally explore the tensions effected by the fact that the various languages/dialects do not hold out the same cultural capital. They would focus on how various language competencies contribute to the distinction between desirable and non-desirable flows of people in the global processes of inclusion-integration. At the same time we are also interested in papers that address migrants’ and relevant institutions’ decisions about language learning or planning and interrogate their conceptualizations of ‘speaking a language” and the ideological work the particular meanings perform in the struggles over the conditions of exclusion/inclusion.


Old and New Conditions of Language Endangerment

Session Organizer
Olga KAZAKEVICH, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia,

Session in English

The value of cultural and linguistic diversity is now widely acknowledged, as is the fact that in the modern world this diversity is seriously endangered. Linguistic inequality can be currently observed in the overwhelming majority of multilingual communities all over the world. Linguistic inequality is among the most significant factors leading to language shift and thus contributing to language endangerment.

The objective of the session is to examine various components, manifestations, and consequences of linguistic inequality, as well as the particular social, geographical, and historical contexts in which language shifts develop. We would like to consider to what extent language ideologies are shaped by political economies and their institutions.

We invite papers that explore the conditions under which families choose not to pass their native languages on to their children analyzing particular situations of language endangerment all over the world from an historical perspective.


Online Interaction: The Changing Meanings of Social Context

Session Organizer
Anders PERSSON, Lund University, Sweden,

Session in English

Our understanding of communication and social interaction is to a great degree founded on physical proximity – indeed the sociological meaning of situations where people meet assumes face-to-face interaction. One example is the system requirements that Goffman formulated regarding talk as a communication system in his article “Replies and Responses” (1976). Not surprisingly physical proximity is more or less taken for granted in this article.

A lot of today’s communication and interaction are however conducted in absence of physical proximity. Of course this holds for older media such as the telephone, but it is an increasingly pervasive condition given the rise of “new media” (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), as well as in electronic environments such as e-learning, e-working, e-gaming, e-dating and comes with social consequences that include e-bullying and e-hatred. In these contexts individuals communicate and interact in total and/or partial absence of physical proximity.

This session seeks papers that take up a broad range of debates on this topic including but not limited to the following questions. Are there corresponding theoretical developments in fields of communication and social interaction that can take into consideration the absence of physical proximity? Similarly what are the corresponding methodological developments that are needed to study communication and social interaction in absence of physical proximity? How can we understand this phenomenon as part of a special kind of “linguistic turn”? Does it hold specific consequences for traditional axes of inequality such as age, gender, ethnicity and class? And which substitutes for physical proximity can be observed and how do they influence our understanding of social interaction?

This session is open to all theoretical, analytical and methodological approaches as far as they focus on communication and social interaction in absence of physical proximity.


Privilege and Stigma

Session Organizer
Thomas HOREJES, Gallaudet University, USA,

Session in English

Language is a driving mechanism in the development and maintenance of one’s cultural boundaries. In this sense, language is not only a marker of belonging to a specific culture but of one’s humanity. Within and across cultures, favoring one language as a form of privilege often becomes as a socially constructed tool for measuring normalcy, stigma, and constructing what it means to be human.

This session welcomes paper submissions that focus how the production of language inequalities continue shape representations of marginalized or minority groups. Papers may also include the maintenance and/or enforcement of language use in social institutions (e.g. schools and workplaces) and the grave implications of stigmatizing practices that determine what is most “natural” and “privileged.”

By examining a wide variety of inequalities in a range of societies and countries, this session aims to identify and reveal the intersecting forms of language inequalities for these marginalized or minority groups. It is through this approach that such an examination would provide resources and multiple pathways for rethinking the relationship between the center and the margins of power between themselves and society.


Producing Counter-Hegemonic Knowledge

Session Organizer
Nadezhda GEORGIEVA-STANKOVA, Trakia University, Bulgaria,

Session in English

Facing a world of rising social inequality, sociology needs to further elaborate strategies for studying the mechanisms through which hegemonic knowledge is created, sustained and resisted. Understanding the production and circulation of counter-hegemonic knowledge is increasingly important. Studies of language offer us powerful tools both for developing insight into how dominant forces manufacture consent and for understanding active resistance to relations of domination.

The session aims to explore power contestation and resistance through language and discourse. More particularly, papers included in this session will analyze how people actively create and resist articulations of dominant power in their particular social settings (Hall, 1996). Also of interest are papers that examine the nature of power residing in various inter-discursive forms of ideology in producing consent (Gramsci, 1992; 1996), which help to “hegemonize” the “national popular” existing in everyday discourse, practices and interactions (Hall, 1985).

Particular attention will be paid to social access to the production of discourse, speaking out particular visions of social justice, and to the control, circulation and regulation of discourses. Therefore, we are interested in some key questions: We welcome papers that may be related to some or other of the following problems:


RC25 Business Meeting

Session Organizer


RC25 Roundtable Session II: Language and Inequalities

Session Organizer
Amado ALARCON, Universidad Rovira i Virgili, Spain,
Melanie HEATH, McMaster University, Canada,
Frederic MOULENE, Université de Strasbourg, France,

Session in English


RC25 Roundtable Session: Current debates in Japanese Scholarship on Language and Society

Session Organizers
Amado ALARCON, Universidad Rovira i Virgili, Spain,
Keiji FUJIYOSHI, Koyasan University, Japan,

Session in English

This session will consider a wide range of current debates regarding sociological studies of language carried out in Japan. We invite papers that contribute to the following questions: How do Japanese scholars conceptualize sociological studies of language? What methods and theories are commonly used? In what ways are various methods and theories contested? What is the place of sociological studies of language within the broader discipline of sociology? What are the main points of debate about the relationships between language and society among Japanese scholars? What are the primary sociological concepts and theories about language developed in Japan? To what extent are western concepts and theories about language limited/useful for Japanese social reality? How might distinctively Japanese theories and concepts can benefit international scholars working on language in other countries?

Some research topics about language in Japanese society are of special interest for this session since they can empirically address previous questions. For example, but not limited to, some topics than can foster the debate could be old and new language hegemonies within Japan and its international context or particular relations in Japan among language, nationality, ethnicity and culture. This session is open to all scholars who are doing sociological research, theoretical or empirical, in Japan on language and society.


Sociological Analyses of Language

Session Organizer
Celine-Marie PASCALE, American University, USA,

Session in English

Language is an integral part of all social relations. This session will explore the unique capacities that sociological studies of language provide for understanding social and economic inequalities. We seek papers that disciplinary questions regarding the efficacy of various styles of sociological studies of language, as well as a broad range of topical issues.

Themes for paper submissions may include but are not limited to: a) Recent developments, approaches and trends in studies of language; b) Controversies and debates regarding sociological studies of language; c) Innovative studies of language; d) Methodological or theoretical problems; e) critiques and inequalities in which sociologists of language are embedded; f) studies of language in relation to discourses of social science.


The Language of Borders: Exclusion and Resistance

Session Organizer
Trinidad VALLE, Fordham University, USA,

Session in English

Discourses of difference are constantly shaping and reshaping borders of all kinds. The social construction of ‘borders’ is a key area in the struggle for power in any social group: the power of naming the frontier between “us” and “them” is a central asset. In the context of a globalized, post-colonial society, borders are supposedly fluid, malleable and flexible. Yet at the same time they are reified in discourses of exclusion as solids, permanent and stable. This reified notion of stability is at the roots of current struggles over borders, in terms of nationality, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality.

Scholars have explored the process of border formation and border crossing in terms of national, race and ethnic borders. Language has been defined as a key area in the construction of borders, for example in terms of narratives on nationality and ethnicity (Bhabha, 1990; Said 1978). The concept of border has also been applied to the study of the social construction of gender and sexuality; since the pioneer discussion of Lakoff (1975) on language and gender many authors have studied the role of language in defining and legitimizing gender and sexual borders (Butler, 1990; Anzaldua, 1987). Furthermore, the concept of border is also relevant for new areas of research: the discussion of the post-human (Haraway, 1991; Latour, 2005), involves at its core a redefinition of the borders of the human body and mind.

The panel session will discuss issues related to the construction of social borders through language, emphasizing processes of exclusion and resistance. Authors are invited to explore the multiple aspects of the discourse on borders, in different social settings. In this manner the panel looks to have an open debate relating, but not exclusive to, issues such as: discursive violence associated to border formation and border maintenance; the language of border crossing and its challenges; the relevance of an intersectional perspective to study overlapping borders; the discourse on borders and the crisis of the Nation-State; the language of migratory fluxes and bodies; and the redefinition of borders through resistance discourses.


Joint Sessions

Click on the session title to read its description and the scheduled day/time.

Language, Work and Health

Joint session of RC25 Language and Society [host committee] and RC30 Sociology of Work



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June 2014