- Prof. Claire Kramsch
Identity and subjectivity in the era of globalization
In his little book Fear of small numbers (2006), the social critic Arjun Appadurai reflects on the reasons why identity has become such a hot topic in studies of globalization. He sees a link “between minorities within the modern nation-state and the marginalization of the nation-state by the forces of globalization.” (33). While immigrants are called upon to ‘reconstruct’ their identities upon arrival in a new country (Pavlenko & Lantolf 2000), nations themselves are under pressure to define what it means to be French, German or American when nation states are slowly losing much of their economic and political sovereignty. Appadurai notes that “the mysterious roamings of finance capital are matched by new kinds of migration, both elite and proletarian, which create unprecedented tensions between identities of origin, identities of residence, and identities of aspiration for many migrants in the world labor market.” (Appadurai 2006: 37) The current focus of intercultural communication research on the identities of learners and speakers of other languages can be seen as a response to this new anxiety “about foreign goods . . . foreign languages, foreign migrants, or foreign investments” in a global economy (22). The efforts of some applied linguists to view an individual’s identity as multiple, changing and conflictual (Norton 2000) have aimed at making bilingual and bicultural minorities less threatening by helping them reconstruct themselves within a pluralistic democratic society. Such a reconstruction reduces anxiety by making the Other predictable and controllable, but it risks sacrificing difference for diversity, subjectivity for identity. This paper takes as an example the (re)construction of Americans’ sense of self in Barack Obama’s speech of 12 January 2011 at the memorial for the victims of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona. It examines how the speech deals with a traumatic incident of American political violence in light of the foreign political violence wrought upon the United States on 11 September 2001. It shows how in an era of globalization identities and subjectivities are easily confused and how it is more important than ever to analytically distinguish one from the other.
- Prof. Celia RobertsPerforming the institutional selfSelection processes, which are a key instrument of institutional order, combine the linguistic technologies of the examination and the confession to make the individual startlingly visible (Foucault 1977). Candidates are required to perform according to implicit institutional standards which they are unfamiliar with or resistant to. Despite the diversity training in place in most organisations, differences in performance rapidly produce inequalities as every move in the interview or exam is socially evaluated.This ‘quiet sorting process’ (Goffman 1983) masks the performativity of individuals. The wider the gap between institutional evaluative norms, and candidate style and positioning, the more performance work has to be done. Micro-analysis of video-recorded selection processes for low-paid jobs and medical settings will shed light on some of the tensions between the institutional apparatus and linguistic/cultural diversity.
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