WP316 Sociolinguistics meets Memory Studies: A conversation

Rampton & Van de Putte


What do Sociolinguistics and Memory Studies have in common, and why should they be interested in each other?  What are the likely obstacles to their interaction? How could they be overcome?  And what are the potential rewards?  This conversation between an interactional sociolinguist (Ben) and a memory scholar (Thomas) notes from the outset that while sociolinguistics (Slx) can enrich memory studies’ growing interest in mundane practice, Memory Studies (MS) can enhance increasing sociolinguistic attention to the communicative significance of exceptional, traumatic and violent events.  This potential complementarity runs, though, into quite substantial differences in ‘analytical culture’.  One tradition leans towards respectful curation (MS), the other towards irreverant ‘myth-busting’ (Slx).  While one attends hermaneutically to the after-life of events in narratives, archives etc. (MS), the other captures, somewhat ‘positivistically’, the ongoing enactment of society across a plurality of genres in the factualities of recorded data (Slx).  And while one handles material of considerable public interest, often surrounded by legal and ritual discourses (MS), the other works hard at amplifying the (bureaucratic, educational etc) consequentiality of what’s generally taken for granted (Slx).  To facilitate the conversation between them, data-sessions focused on short recordings of interaction are a powerful resource, stimulating a plurality of abductive inferences that not only draw on theories from each but also hold them both to account in the data on hand.  The Slx/MS encounter can of course lead in a lot of different directions, but for one of us, it offers a way of thickening the sociolinguistic analysis of (in)securitisation as a mode of governance, setting reverence next to suspicion, commemoration of the past alongside fear for the future, and for the other, it opens up an action-oriented Memory Studies, adding an extra dimension to the analysis of inter-scalar processes.