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Applied Linguistics Review

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1868-6311
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Linguistic precariat: Judith Butler’s ‘rethinking vulnerability and resistance’ as a useful perspective for applied linguistics

Susan SamataORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9130-467X
Published Online: 2017-10-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0060

Abstract

In the twenty years since the publication of Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech, more so since Gender Trouble (1990), political and cultural landscapes have changed considerably. One general aspect of this change has been a move away from binary oppositions and discrete categories, and towards recognition of multiplicity and plasticity across many areas, including Butler’s central focus of gender, but also perceptions of race, nationality, and language. Butler’s recent publication, ‘Rethinking vulnerability and resistance’ (2016), may also have significance for the field of Applied Linguistics. It is not only the intentional act, for example of promising (Austin 1962) or incitement (Butler 1997), but any utterance has elements of performativity in that it situates a speaker vis-à-vis their surroundings. In any situation that crosses some socio-linguistic boundary, be it across languages, dialects, or markers of class, a delicate calculus of identification and subjectivity is in play. There are echoes here of Bourdieu’s (1991) notion of the types of personal capital, and of Claire Kramsch’ observation that language indexes social relations; ‘Any harmony or disharmony … is registered on this most sensitive of Richter scales.’ (Kramsch 1998: 77) (Italics in original). This paper will discuss the possible application, to language-centred issues facing second generation migrants and others, of Judith Butler’s theory of vulnerability in resistance (Butler 2016). In this theory, vulnerability is framed not as a prima facie need for protection, but as the very ground for resistance.

Keywords: migrant languages; heritage languages; Judith Butler; precarity; resistance

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About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-25


Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0060.

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