Crisis, a term that can convey both chance and chaos, has in recent decades become a fashionable concept. Crisis is present in everyday discourse; a popular figure in modern media and cultural studies. Its common usage in social controversies as well as acute clashes in political and military contexts represents a wide range of conditions associated with the terminology of crisis: from the problems of a deficient educational system that permanently seem to fester in the background to the conjuring of doomsday scenarios linked to concrete conflicts and states of emergency. The more frequently the term is evoked, the more difficult it is to define; what makes a crisis a crisis?
Assuming a specific life cycle of crises, the question arises of whether its beginning and end are actually already determined. Conversely, considering an actor perspective, how are these phases, and their popular acceptance, determined and mediated? In what conditions can a crisis be declared? Is the end characterised by media silence, or is this also staged?
Languagetalks seeks to pursue different conceptualisations, manifestations, and effects of crisis across the disciplinary perspectives of cultural history, linguistics, and literary studies. Rather than considering this much-quoted term as an ontological category, we aim to interrogate crisis as a cultural and linguistic construct with various and varying characteristics depending upon the diverse forms of representations in changing media. The issues to be discussed include, but are not limited to:
Language in Crises
Language itself can be the subject of a crisis debate, if, for example, elements of a foreign language are perceived as a threat to the integrity of a local language and culture. Often, language also serves as a vehicle for forming and constructing identity; foreign speakers might suffer socio-cultural exclusion, lacking access to the nuances of specific communicational means within a society. Another very prominent linguistic feature of crises is the formation of neologisms, e.g. with the suffix –gate. Originating from the Watergate Scandal in 1972, adding –gate to keywords of certain discourses will add a connotation of scandal, deficiency, or outrage. Examples are: Nipplegate (entertainment), Fingergate (politics), Deflategate (sports), or Antennagate (technology). Apart from that, existing (potentially simple) words or phrases can be altered in their semantic and pragmatic functions. Using them in an exposed manner, e.g. as a rhetoric figure, might change their message in a significant manner. In this way Obama’s “Yes we can” formed a popular political lexeme.
The call is open to doctoral and post-doctoral candidates from areas of study in literature, linguistics, and cultural history. Presentations should be around 20 minutes in length and can be held in German or English. Please send an abstract (maximum of 300 words) along with a short CV to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st October 2015. Selected papers will also be published in the conference proceedings.