DiscourseNet 20: Exploring Fuzzy Boundaries in Discourse Studies

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DiscourseNet 20, 17-19 May, 2018
Károli Gáspár University, Budapest, Hungary
Exploring Fuzzy Boundaries in Discourse Studies

The aim of the 20th DiscourseNet conference is to focus on the multifarious aspects of fuzzy boundaries in the field of discourse studies. The field of discourse studies itself is marked by complex boundary work and a certain degree of fuzziness regarding the use of linguistic categories. Moreover, fuzziness and boundary work are also inherent dimensions of cognition and subjectivity, it can therefore be considered a fundamental feature of the discursive construction of reality. This conference explores the different ways in which fuzziness operates in empirically observable discourse.

We can observe fuzzy boundaries within the field of Discourse Studies per se in the following respects (cf. Angermuller et al. 2014: 2):
• the variety of disciplinary fields, e.g. (socio)linguistics, sociology, philosophy, literary criticism, anthropology, psychology, etc. and intellectual traditions (rule-based, experience-based, poststructuralist, hermeneutic, semiotic, psychoanalytical, etc.);
• the fuzzy diversity of schools associated with prominent figures such as Blommaert, Fairclough, Foucault, Goffman, Grice, Gumperz, Habermas, Harris, Hymes, Labov, Lakoff, Pêcheux, Petőfi, Sacks, Schiffrin, or Wodak;
• in terms of research methodologies and what constitutes data and corpora in Discourse Studies: here we can mention intuition-based, corpus-based and corpus-driven approaches, sociolinguistic interviews, matched-guised techniques and discourse completion tasks, and the emerging importance of triangulation and approaching the data from different plausibility contexts, i.e. complexity and hybridity in terms of sampling as well as analysing data;
• fuzzy boundaries with regard to the goals and aims of Discourse Studies, especially in terms of the theoretical-descriptive-applied-critical dimensions: most analyses providing rich discourse-theoretical inspiration lend themselves to empirical testing, while linguistic description, applied research and critical analysis are futile without sound theoretical foundations.

Both academic and everyday discourses are characterized by the use of abstract concepts and categories that may be marked by varying degrees of fuzziness. This fuzziness allows language users to adapt to functionally related meaningful discursive elements to ever-changing contexts of enunciation. Within academia, this principle often leads to debates about conflicting uses of similar categories. In politics, this principle may lead to emotional engagements with all sorts of political identities and ideological projects. And at times, there is even a hybrid cross-over and fuzzy confusion between academic and non-academic notions of categories such as language, culture, identity, politics, integration, economy and any other basic category for understanding our world.

A (proto)typical example of a linguistic category that displays many fuzzy boundaries is the functional category of discourse markers with an extremely heterogeneous set of source categories (interjections, adverbials, verbs, clauses, etc.) and discourse functions (ideational, interpersonal, rhetorical, textual) as well as fuzzy boundaries with other categories such as modal particles, pragmatic force modifiers, hedges, framing devices, contextualization cues, etc. Other such fuzzy categories include enunciative markers, modality markers, deictics, reporting expressions, etc.

In a globalized world marked by an increasing socio-political focus on immigration and minority groups there is also a need for new perceptual frameworks to come to terms with a plethora of social and cultural identities with fuzzy boundaries between them including transnational, ethnic, religious, ideological and gender identities and issues such as double consciousness, diaspora, the third space, heterogeneous homogeneity, the internal colony, etc.

Transnationalism, translocality, and transpositionality are the most frequently used terms to describe the cultural, social and spatial fuzziness of subject positions in the contemporary Western world. Hegemonic portrayals of subjectivities are often challenged by literary and visual texts which call attention to the intersection of gender, race, class, ethnicity, nationality as well as other forms of identity. Representations of cities and urban life are defined by nomadism, transgression, trespass and shifting boundaries, raising questions concerning the ethical positions momentary nomadic connections open up (cf. Rosi Braidotti).

Since the affective turn in the social sciences and the humanities, affect has been contrasted with the discursive, and the need to find new approaches to untangle the ambivalent relation between affect and discourse has become an imperative (cf. Margaret Wetherell). Affect shapes the encounters between bodies and events, which is all the more significant in the globalised, nomadic Western world, yet the Deleuzian notion of affect as “discursive excess” does not provide a viable framework to understand its social and cultural significance. New methodologies and conceptual frameworks are needed to redefine affect as part of a continuous stream of meaning-making.

We invite contributions which deal with theoretical and/or methodological challenges with reference to fuzzy boundaries such as (but not exclusive to) the above issues. We welcome papers from all strands, schools, and perspectives in Discourse Studies, from the humanities to the social sciences, from strictly interpretive to quantifying methodologies, from discourse as a situated practice to discourse as socially distributed knowledge.

Reflecting fuzzy boundaries and the diversity of disciplines in Discourse Studies,
Christopher Hart (Lancaster University, UK)
Heike Pichler (Newcastle University, UK)
have confirmed their participation as plenary speakers.

Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be submitted in English through the application form by 1 September 2017 on http://dn20.discourseanalysis.net . The presentations (15 minutes) are normally also in English but other languages are negotiable after the individual panels have taken shape. Notifications of acceptance are expected to be communicated by early October 2017. If accepted, applicants will have to register to confirm their participation. An early-bird fee of EUR 80 will apply until 15 December 2017 for fully funded researchers and a reduced fee of EUR 50 for enrolled students without access to institutional funding (after 15 December a regular fee of EUR 100 and a reduced fee of EUR 60 will apply). There is a limited number of places. Registration will be closed when full.

After the conference, a book proposal for a thematic volume (or possibly two) based on selected conference papers will be submitted to Palgrave Macmillan for the “Postdisciplinary Studies in Discourse” series.

Main organizer:
Péter Furkó (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary)

Local organizers:

Csilla Dér (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary)
Ágnes Györke (University of Debrecen)
Judit Nagy (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary)
Ildikó Vaskó (Eötvös Loránd University)

Scientific Committee:
Johannes Angermuller (University of Warwick)
Jan Chovanec (Masaryk University, Brno)
Heike Pichler (Newcastle University)
Ronny Scholz (University of Warwick)
Jan Zienkowski (University of Navarra)
(+local organizers)

Péter Furkó (furko.peter@kre.hu)
Persona de contacto
Peter Furko