With a Special Introduction by Claire Kramsch – Professor Emerita, UC Berkeley
Alastair Pennycook – Emeritus Professor of Language, Society, and Education, University of Technology Sydney
Language as Assemblage
A focus on language(s) as assemblage reconfigures what counts as language and how social, spatial and material worlds interact. An understanding of assemblages as entangled groupings of different elements allows for an appreciation of the ways in which different trajectories of people, semiotic resources and objects meet at particular moments and places. Drawing on a broader framework that looks at language ontologies – an argument that languages are different things to different people – this talk will explore briefly other ways of framing languages (particularly as structures and practices) before looking more closely at assemblages and their implications. Three slightly different ways of thinking about language assemblages will be outlined: assemblages as combinations of linguistic items (language assemblages), assemblages as semiotic gatherings (semiotic assemblages), and assemblages as material arrangements that involve language (material assemblages). Drawing on various examples and contexts, I will show how thinking in terms of assemblages makes it possible to give greater weight to the social role of objects while pointing to ways that social life happens as an unfolding set of uneven practices, as local combinations of things that become happenings. This does not mean turning our back on the possibility of thinking about political economy or structural racism, for example, but insists instead that these only make sense when looked at in their local entanglements.