Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Human rights
Alarmist framings of human mobility have been widespread in recent years, as seen in media frenzies around the 2014 “border surge” of unaccompanied Central American youth and the ongoing “refugee crisis” in Europe. At the same time, xenophobic political movements have gained strength around the globe, producing policies that seek to constrain the mobility of particular racialized populations, through increased policing and enforcement that further marginalize migrant communities. Such dynamics necessitate a deeper understanding of how conceptualizations of mobility and immobility are produced, particularly the discursive and semiotic processes by which these framings circulate and are taken up.
This panel brings linguistic anthropological insights to bear on this issue through an examination of migration discourse or “talk and writing that summons up or presupposes the figures of personhood, rhetorical themes, forms of spatial reference, or logical propositions that people associate with the causes and consequences of migration” (Dick 2018, 10). The papers explore the textual adaptability of narratives produced by immigrants, asylum seekers, legal institutions, NGOs, and different social actors involving migration. In particular, the panel focuses on migration discourse mediated by communication technologies, exploring the consequences of such digital circulation for the imaginaries of belonging and exclusion that such discourse produces. We examine how these forms of migration discourse are adapted through various forms of media(tiza)tion, drawing on Agha’s conceptualization of mediatization as “institutional practices that reflexively link processes of communication to processes of commoditization” (2011, 163). The papers shed light on the broader processes of mediation through which mediatization is produced and remediated (Silverstein 2011), demonstrating how the durable artifacts of mediatization emerge and are repurposed in consequential ways.
By focusing on the adaptive nature of language, we examine how migration discourse is entextualized and recontextualized through processes of mediat(iz)ed interdiscursivity (Bauman and Briggs 1990). The panel asks: what happens to the narratives and imaginaries that such discourses produce when they are linked to processes of commoditization that allow them to circulate more widely, but also shape and constrain them in particular ways? How do institutions of many kinds participate in these processes of media(tizat)ion, to what ends, and with what effects? The presentations in this panel will answer these questions by analyzing mediatized representations of immigrant youth; entextualized discursive practices produced by asylum seekers; the monitoring of transidiomatic exchanges between immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea; marketing campaigns depicting Latino workers in Israel in a particular way; communicative exchanges among migrants and their non-migrant kin; and the aural imaginaries of migrant youth in Chicago. Ultimately, we seek to understand the ways in which such processes produce existing forms of inequality in today’s mobile world even as they may constitute a space wherein alternative forms of belonging and resiliency are created.