Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
This panel explores metapragmatics, those semiotic activities that comment on, alter, or script interpretations of semiotic activities, as a key mechanism of political change. We address the linguistic and semiotic processes by which sections of political performance become subject to commentary and the source of new political action. Talk about political talk, for example, constructs what is “appropriate” and “good” versus what is “out of bounds,” “subversive,” “treacherous” or “backwards.” Such explicit metapragmatic discourses about political talk, as well as recognizable performances of commentary such as gesture, allow political actors to align themselves with institutions, ideologies, and social groups. They also offer ways to redefine boundaries and make new claims to power. Papers in this panel describe contemporary political contexts in the Philippines, Venezuela, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the United States to investigate how and why forms of political talk themselves become the explicit focus of attention—and often the opportunity for organizing new political responses. These cases show how political metapragmatics connect forms of talk to long held beliefs about belonging and cultural boundaries as well as to immediate contests for power. While the cases share a concern with the actions of politicians and their audiences, they each profile a different style of altering those political actions through metapragmatic commentary, from blasphemy accusations, protest typography, and shoe-throwing, to social media commentary, calls for politicians’ codes of conduct, and proclamations that anticipate assassination. In showing how talk about political talk remakes authority and moral legitimacy, scale, cultural identity, and visions of political futures, this panel demonstrates how profoundly important metapragmatics are in rapidly altering a political scene.