WP313 Jerusalem and the limits and affordances of sociolinguistics



The 2018 Israeli Nationality Law defined Israel as a state for Jewish people.  What are the implications of this for Jerusalem and its population of roughly 500,000 Jews and 300,000 Palestinian Arabs, and more particularly, what are the sociopolitical implications for the daily life of the Arabic language in the city?  Questions like these underpin my research, and in this talk, I reflect on the extent to which traditional sociolinguistics can answer them.  I begin with a discussion of shortcomings in established sociolinguistic approaches to intractable national conflicts such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and then move to issues of positionality.  After that, I turn to my own methodology, which I discuss in terms of approach, theory, method and analytic frameworks & features of communication in focus, reflecting on my education at Georgetown and illustrating the account with empirical vignettes from ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in the city since Fall 2019.  Overall, the paper highlights top-down Israeli policies in Jerusalem alongside bottom-up negotiation/resistance.