Plenary speakers

  • Sam Bennet
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Sociolinguistics & Discourse Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University

Britain has always been a safe haven”: Mythopoetic legitimation in UK immigration policy 

Understanding mythopoesis (van Leeuwen 2008) as a form of legitimation through history, in this lecture I argue that myths are second order objectivations that integrate existing socially constructed objectivations into a cohesive story (Bennett 2022 forthcoming). Their taken-for-grantedness relies upon a ‘sanctioned ignorance’ (Spivak (1988) of other potential histories, a form of epistemic violence limiting what is considered valid knowledge. Myths can thus be understood as a “purposeful silencing through the dismissing of a particular context as being irrelevant” (Mayblin 2020). In this way, they form one part of a much wider web of interdiscursivly and intertextually connected texts that serve to symbolically construct a community. One space where such a process can be glimpsed is in governmental immigration White Papers, which overtly present a particular policy direction (through multiple genres – Bennett 2018). Through a critically discursive analysis however, it is possible to glimpse and demystify the covert mythopoetic legitimation strategies contained within them. 

  • Ana Deumert
  • Professor, Linguistics Section, University of Cape Town

What if … there had never been settlers? Thinking about coloniality, migration and language 

Drawing on recent work that speaks to the ‘coloniality of migration’ (Rodríguez’ 2018, Turner/ Mayblin 2020) as well as my own reflections on the locus of enunciation in settler-colonial societies (Deumert 2018, 2019), I argue that understanding colonial histories is central to migration studies. Focusing on South Africa and Namibia I explore the historical entanglements between settler colonialism, enslavement (17th/18th centuries) and labour migration (19th/20th centuries, ongoing). Settler colonialism can be conceptualized as a form of exploitative migration. Driven by a politics of dispossession and racial capitalism, settler colonialism constituted not only one the largest movement of people across the world, but also set into motion – forcefully and violently – migration movements of those populations it wished to eliminate, yet who were needed on the plantations and mines. I argue that the locus of settler-colonial enunciation is not only found in the world’s setter colonies (from the United States to South Africa), but equally in the colonial metropoles where contemporary processes of migration link directly to these colonial histories. My talk seeks to close the gap between migration studies and current work on empire-coloniality-racism, exploring its sociolinguistic implications. 

In this conversation with Federico Faloppa, we will discuss his work on talking about language and migration in the public sphere and how he is working towards policy change with the hate speech project.

  • Chris Hart 
  • Professor of Linguistics, Lancaster University

Multimodal Representations in Anti-Immigration Discourse: Language, Image, Gesture 

In this talk, I apply a cognitive linguistics lens to critically analyse representations of immigration in different semiotic modes and the interaction between them in multimodal texts and talk.  The talk is structured in three parts.  Given that migration is most fundamentally the movement of people from one place to another, in the first part, I start by outlining the ‘default motion event’ as it is encoded in English (Talmy 2000).  I then go on to highlight some of the conceptual parameters along which attested language usages found in online news coverage of migration to the UK depart from this basic model to enact alternative construals which contribute to the legitimation of discriminatory social action.  Such conceptual parameters relate, for example to the manner of motion, the time frame in which the motion event is construed as occurring, and the perspective from which it is construed.  In the second part of the talk, I show how, in multimodal news texts, language and image may converge in encoding parallel conceptualisations of immigration so that, for example, metaphorical construals evoked by language usages may also receive representation in co-text images. Such intersemiotic convergence, I argue, has a ‘ratcheting’ effect in discursive constructions of prejudice and the legitimation of discriminatory action. I analyse language-image combinations in the form of new photographs and their captions. In the final part of the talk, I focus on gesture in the situated performance of anti-immigration discourse, taking as a case study the discourse of Nigel Farage. I show how many of the rhetorical moves associated with (de)legitimating discourse, including Othering and threat-construction through deictic distancing/proximising, quantification and denial, in situated discourse, are performed multimodally through specific gesture-speech combinations. I therefore argue that gesture is an important discursive means by which prejudice is performed in situated political discourse.

  • Ingrid Piller 
  • Distinguished Professor of Applied Linguistics, Macquarie University

Religious conversion and migrant integration 

This lecture examines the intersection of conversion to Christianity and migrants’ social and linguistic integration. The lecture is based on research conducted jointly with Yining Wang. Conversion to Christianity is growing among Chinese migrants to Australia. We investigated the conversion journeys of a group of first-generation Chinese Australians as they intersect with their experiences of English language learning, hybrid identity formation, settlement, and parenting. Based on qualitative open-ended interviews with seven highly educated women who had migrated to Australia as adults and converted to Christianity within the first few years of settlement, we trace conversion as a key aspect of their social integration into the new society. The women experienced migration as an existential crisis of economic insecurity, loss of status, language barriers, marital problems, and parenting dilemmas. In the absence of the social networks they had lost through migration, they turned to churches for practical support. The support and community offered by church groups led them to accept a new belief system and completely transformed their lives. The long-term consolidation of the benefits of conversion were achieved through bilingual and bicultural practices and hybrid and adhesive identities, resulting in personal well-being and a high level of social integration. Christian beliefs also became a kind of objective standard that allowed them to bridge generational, linguistic, and cultural gaps with their second-generation children. We close with a discussion of the lessons that this research holds for secular institutions as they try to improve the social integration of newcomers.