WP293 Sociolinguistics and (in)securitisation as another mode of governance

Rampton, Silva & Charalambous


This paper argues that (in)securitisation-“making ‘enemy’ and ‘fear’ the integrative, energetic principle of politics” (Huysmans 2014:3)-now calls for much fuller attention than it has hitherto received in sociolinguistics, and that it should figure alongside ‘standardisation’ and ‘marketisation’ as a major mode of governance shaping and shaped in language ideology and communicative practice. After a sketch of the two conceptions of governance that have dominated in sociolinguistics over the last 50 years, the paper draws on Foucault and Mbembe’s ‘necropower’ to introduce (in)securitisation and its historical and contemporary role in the formation of nation-states and the management of large populations. It then outlines some of (in)securitisation’s prototypical features (states of exception; enemies & inferiorised ‘races’; walls and fortifications; intensified alertness; silencing), turning after that to (in)securitisation’s entanglement with standard language in two empirical studies. In one, people living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro experience ongoing violence from drug traffickers and police, but have developed digital media practices and a discursive register to resist this (counter-securitisation); in the other, Greek-Cypriot secondary school teachers and students navigate postwar reconciliation through precarious engagement with Turkish, the language of the former enemy (de-securitisation). There are substantial differences between these two sites, indicating the need for close, sustained ethnography, as well as the difficulties facing any attempt to predict the sociolinguistic effects of (in)securitisation. Even so, (in)securitisation is still vital to an understanding of how people in these places orient to standard language, and beyond this, with the pandemic, increased geopolitical instability and the Climate Emergency, it is hard to doubt (in)securitisation’s growing relevance to a plurality of sociolinguistic processes and practices.