Language in the Media conference


18-20 October 2017


University of the Western Cape
Cape Town
South Africa


Deadline for Abstracts:
31 December
Notification of Acceptance:
1 February
Early Bird Registration:
Standard Registration:
Late Registration:
October and on site

Keynote Speakers

Branca Falabella Fabrício

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
‘No better time or better reason to close the Border to the South and shut down the Olympics’: Colonial geopolitics, biomediatization and complex indexicalities in news coverage of the Zika virus outbreak.


News about health and disease circulate massively in contemporary media – on TV, on the radio, in magazines and newspapers, on the Internet – forming a steady flux of texts about improving wellbeing and warding off health problems. In the case of an epidemic, the news stream becomes so accelerated that moral panic gets easily installed. Aligning myself with Martín-Barbero and his insight that fear is the major fuel source for the media, in this talk I draw on a decolonial perspective and on the notion of biomediatization to explore how issues of health, politics, sex, gender, race, social class and tourism, among others, intersect in the news coverage of the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, spreading both distress and a sense of imminent calamity. I start by claiming that mediatized health phenomena do not exist prior to their textualization. Rather, they come into being as they circulate and get semiotized by a plethora of reporters, medical professionals, patients, lay people, readers, viewers and so on. This kind of mediatized mobility involves co-production processes and complex indexical activities that have to be approached through different timespace scales. Next, I focus on the analysis of chained media texts produced by both Brazilian and international media. By examining how the construction of the Zika phenomenon dramatically uses epistemological and conceptual dualisms, I detect the recontextualization of deep-seated colonial practices and discourses which consistently connect the so-called South to a particular language game, associating ideas of disorder, unsafety, laziness, and unhealthy sexual pleasures. I conclude by suggesting that the present bombardment of media texts, its speedy temporality, and the available technological rationality converge in the displacement of the slower temporality of reflexive experience. The former, as the timespace parameter for the trading and consumption of commodities, and the latter, as the stolen timespace realm of critical thinking, recycle colonial tactics of capitalist submission and consumerism. The scrutinized data include counter-discourses and practices. Nevertheless, the insidious coloniality they battle with reminds us that a decolonial era is yet to be imagined as naturalized colonial plots keep afflicting the present and boycotting the future.


Erez Levon

Queen Mary University of London
“This is not Europe”: Sexuality, ethnicity and the (re)enactment of Israeli authenticity


The dominant narrative of Israeli nationalism is based on a foundational tension. On one hand, Zionism as a political movement was in large part motivated by a desire to create a new category of Jewish personhood that would be distinct from its European counterpart, anchored (both physically and symbolically) in the land of Palestine (e.g., Almog 2000; Shafir & Peled 2002). Yet, on the other hand, normative Israeli identity has never been conceptualised as a fully “Middle Eastern” category. Rather, cultural and historical links to Europe have often been strategically deployed in order to sustain and legitimate pervasive systems of social stratification and marginalisation that exist both within Jewish Israeli communities as well as between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians (e.g., Kimmerling 2001; Shalom Chetrit 2009).

In this talk, I explore how Arisa, a well-known queer Israeli music group that organises gay club parties with an “oriental” theme, critiques this dominant Eurocentric imagining of Israeli identity. Drawing on recent developments in the study of mediatised performance (e.g., Agha 2011; Androutsopoulos 2014; Jaffe et al. 2015), I examine a series of promotional music videos Arisa released between 2011-2015. I describe how in these videos the group uses parody to disrupt normative conceptualisations of Israeli authenticity and the gendered, sexual and ethnic stereotypes that undergird them. At the same time, I also demonstrate how Arisa’s critique functions by reinscribing tropes of (Jewish) Israeli exceptionalism, thus feeding into dominant discourses of Israeli homonationalism (Puar 2013; Milani & Levon 2016).

In the talk, I discuss the complex interplay of these two aspects of Arisa’s performance, emphasising the multiple and over-lapping fields of power involved (e.g., Abu-Lughod 1990; Gal 1995). In doing so, I aim to contribute to broader discussions of the political potential of mediatised performance (e.g., Jaffe 2000, 2011; Pietikäinen 2014).

Crispin Thurlow

University of Bern
De/materializing Discourse


I have become increasingly concerned with/by the euphoric nature of contemporary, transnational class formations which pose all sorts of challenges for critical discourse analysts grappling with these formations (see Thurlow, 2016). Quite patently, the study of class defies and exceeds language, and our usual methods struggle to account for the tactile, affective, psychic practices by which class status is organized and sustained. In this presentation, I want to take up similar political-cum-methodological issues by focusing on the Business Class meal services of international airlines. Drawing on a range of ethnographic discourse data, my analysis will map the complex discursive formation that is the “premium” meal: from the design of menus, to the staging of the food itself, to the embodied performances of flight attendants, and, of course, to the extravagant spectacles of advertising. And the point of all this? At the epicenter of global class inequality, hinging on raw exploitation and extraction, these fleeting, frivolous enactments of privilege seed themselves well beyond the confines of the Business Class cabin. Indeed, we witness how the elitist rhetorics of status slide not only across modalities but also across topographies, rippling ever outwards across the global semioscape. And the persuasive power or allure of these discursive actions lies equally in their dreadful materiality as it does their delightful immateriality.

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+27 21 590-7900

Angela Beukes
Project Director

Karen van der Bergh
Conference Administrator


University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa