Discussing multilingualism and politics

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Multilingualism constitutes an integral part of post-national citizenship, in which political argumentation may defy linguistic barriers. Together with the profusion of new publics, the rise of new media and ‘third spaces’ of communication (Wright, 2014; Bhabha, 1994), multilingual communication has altered the normative make-up of the public sphere both in terms of structure and communicative nature. ‘Emergent publics’ (Angus, 2001; Koller & Wodak, 2008), ‘counter-publics’ (Fraser, 1993; 1997) and diasporic public spheres are no longer defined solely by their agonistic nature but also by the way this is expressed through their (choice of) language. Multiple languages representing multiple cultures signify multiple competing rationalities in essentially agonistic public spheres. Power differentials in these multilingual - physical and virtual - public spheres are not rooted in status, education, or access, for instance, but instead on the language (chosen) for communication. In cases where a lingua franca is chosen, the power differentials are clearer between native and non-native speakers of the lingua franca. In diasporic public spheres, power differentials may also derive from different stages of integration. And yet at a political level, the interplay between language and citizenship practices needs to be emphatically thematised and investigated. Important work has been done in the fields of translation and politics, the politics of multilingualism, and multilingual publics that needs to be considered before revisiting the nexus between multilingualism and politics (Wodak, Nanz, Doerr, Baker, to name but a few). There have also been studies on migrant publics in diasporic public spheres (Volkmer, 2014; Hill, 2016 and many others). We need to recognise and thematise the liminality of such publics, who, partly because of their heterolinguality, shift between counterpublic and ‘mainstream’ publics, or are often part of culturally enriched hybrid publics. It is without doubt that multilingualism affects both the social construction of cosmopolitan civic identities as well as the actual conduct of democratic politics, such as new concepts of citizenship and new forms of deliberation. This seminar will discuss ways of revisiting the relationship between multilingualism and citizenship practices.
Period24 Apr 2019
Held atUniversity of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • multilingualism
  • politics
  • citizenship
  • education
  • culture