WP193 ‘I’m already standing up for our rights’: Reflexive discourse and minority-based activism in the trajectory of an adolescent in Hong Kong

PĂ©rez-Milans & Soto
2016
Collection: Key words ,

Abstract

This article engages with Archer’s call for further research on reflexivity and social change under conditions of late modernity (2007, 2010, 2012) from the perspective of existing work on reflexive discourse in the language disciplines (Silverstein 1976, Lucy 1993). Drawing from a linguistic ethnography of the networked trajectories of a group of working-class South Asian youth in Hong Kong (P?rez-Milans & Soto 2014), we analyze the trajectory of Sita, a Hong Kong-born young female with Nepali background. In her trajectory, performative acts of ethnic minority-based activism emerge as key in the enactment of a given set of values, stances, types of persona and situated forms of alignment/disalignment. That is to say, Sita’s enactment of activism is seen in this article as tied to a discourse register (Agha 2007: 147). As such, ‘talking/doing activism’ is inter-textually linked to a speech chain network of a group of secondary school students, teachers, researchers and community-based minority activists engaged with Sita in various interrelated projects for social empowerment. Analysis of interview transcripts, online chats and multimodal artifacts shows the extent to which the coordinated formation of this discourse register proved useful in providing Sita with relevant cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) with which she shaped her own academic trajectory, from a low-prestige government-subsidized secondary school to an elite international college. Data also point towards the need for further engagement with recent invitations to re-imagine identity and social action under current conditions of diversification (Blommaert 2013).