Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 8, 2015

Discussion: Imagining the languaged worker’s language

Bonnie Urciuoli
From the journal Multilingua


What people perceive as “a language” – a named entity – is abstracted from practices and notions about those practices. People take for granted that language is somehow a “thing,” an objectively distinct and bounded entity. How languages come to be thus imagined indexes the conditions under which they are imagined. The articles in this issue illustrate various relations of language-imagining to the ongoing production of neoliberal subjectivity under conditions inflected by the pride-profit polarities, especially profit (Duchêne and Heller 2012). The themes that link these articles show the relation of the language under discussion to its languaged workers, how the language indexes the conditions of its deployment, and how the language is imagined. Entrepreneurialized language is fundamentally promotional, whether on a loose entrepreneur-network basis or following scripted policy or as a manifestation of cultural property. Thus imagined, language and language difference are subject to the same metasemiotic regime as are corporate-friendly interpretations of the national, ethnic, and racial differences represented by language difference. In other words, all forms of difference are “supposed” to be understood in terms of desirable contemporary business-friendly outcomes.


Althusser, Louis. 1971. “Ideology and ideological state apparatuses.” In Louis Althusser (ed.), Lenin and philosophy and other essays, 127–186. London: Monthly Review.Search in Google Scholar

Brown, Wendy. 2015. Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution. Cambridge MA: MIT.10.2307/j.ctt17kk9p8Search in Google Scholar

Cameron, Deborah. 2000. Good to talk? Living and working in a communication culture. London: Sage.10.4135/9781446217993Search in Google Scholar

Duchêne, Alexandre & Monica Heller (eds.). 2012. Language in late capitalism: Pride and profit. London: Routledge10.4324/9780203155868Search in Google Scholar

Gee, James, Glynda Hull & Colin Lankshear. 1996. The new work order: Behind the language of the new capitalism. Boulder, CO: Westview.Search in Google Scholar

Gershon, Ilana. 2011. Neoliberal agency. Current Anthropology 52(4). 537–55.10.1086/660866Search in Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. 1988. Technologies of the self. In Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman & Patrick H. Hutton (eds.), Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault, 16–49. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.Search in Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. 1991. Governmentality. In Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon & Peter Miller (eds.), The Foucault effect. Studies in governmentality with two lectures by and an interview with Michel Foucault, 87–104. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Search in Google Scholar

Jaffe, Alexandra. 2007. “Minority language movements.” In Monica Heller (ed.), Bilingualism: A social approach, 50–70. New York: Palgrave.10.1057/9780230596047_3Search in Google Scholar

Loden, Marilyn. 1996. Implementing diversity. Chicago, IL: Irwin Professional Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

Lorente, Beatriz. 2010. Packaging English-speaking products: Maid agencies in Singapore. In Helen Kelly-Holmes & Gerlinde Mautner (eds.), Language and the market, 44–55. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.10.1007/978-0-230-29692-3_5Search in Google Scholar

Pennycook, Alastair. 2002. Mother tongues, governmentality, and protectionism. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 154. 11–28.10.1515/ijsl.2002.009Search in Google Scholar

Rose, Nikolas. 1999. Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University.10.1017/CBO9780511488856Search in Google Scholar

Silverstein, Michael. 2003. Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication 23(3–4). 193–229.10.1016/S0271-5309(03)00013-2Search in Google Scholar

Silverstein, Michael. 2005. Axes of evals: Token versus type interdiscursivity. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1). 6–22.10.1525/jlin.2005.15.1.6Search in Google Scholar

Urciuoli, Bonnie. 2008. Skills and selves in the new workplace. American Ethnologist 35(2). 211–228.10.1111/j.1548-1425.2008.00031.xSearch in Google Scholar

Urciuoli, Bonnie. 2015. Capitalizing ‘diversity’: Neoliberal reimagining of linguistic and social difference.” To appear in Anthropologie et Sociétés 39(2).Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-7-8
Published in Print: 2016-7-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton