Call for papers for a symposium at the European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference
Conference Date: Online 15-17 September 2021
Deadline for Submissions: 9 June 2021
Alison Moore and Daniel Lees Fryer
In recent years, the humanities and social sciences have witnessed an “animal turn”, an increasing interest in and centering of the lives of nonhuman animals and human-animal relations (Ritvo 2007, Pedersen 2014, inter alia), more recently situated within the context of social justice (Celermajer et al. 2021). We might expect this animal turn to have been taken up with gusto in systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and social semiotics (SFS), given their focus on language, representation, ideology and identity, but although some important work has been produced (e.g. Benson and Greaves 2005, Benson and Thibault 2009, Knight 2006), this has not yet led to a sustained subfield of SFL/SFS such as we see, for example, in educational semiotics. Inspired by the theme of ESFLC 2021 and building on the above work, we want to explore new ways that SFL and SFS can contribute to improving human-animal relations and the actual lives of individuals regardless of species, by critically addressing the statuses, roles and interests of non-human animals in society and the part that semiotic scholarship can play in understanding and acting. Our plan is to bring selected papers from the symposium together with some invited pieces to produce a special issue or edited volume.
There is a rich history in systemic functional theory and social semiotics, as well as in related fields such as critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis, of studying language and meaning as social action (e.g. Kress and Hodge 1979, Hodge and Kress 1988, Fairclough 1992, Martin 2004). Indeed a core premise of SFL has been that the study of language, text, and context is never neutral, but rather “a mode of intervention in critical social practices” (Halliday 1993: 223-224). We note that “intervention” here includes practising linguistics or semiotics in a way that maintains the status quo, whether deliberate or not. A related theme that has energised SFL/SFS is the insistence that meaning potential is unevenly distributed across participants in a culture, usually along the lines of class, gender, ethnicity, generation, and capacity (e.g. Martin 1992: 575-576).
Nonhuman animals are participants in these cultures, too. They are our companions, our protection, our food, our entertainment, our medicine, and our (wild) imagination. Their lives, largely contingent on ours, are precarious and expendable, but their collective and individual interests are not merely subordinate to our own. While animals are probably more affected by material oppression than the symbolic oppression that helps to marginalise certain groups of humans, recent scholarship suggests we underestimate animals’ capacity – and ours – to participate together in the meaning making practices that constitute everyday multispecies life (Plumwood 1993, Celermajer 2021). But either way, our meaning making practices as humans are central to what kind of life the members of other species can live. As Thibault puts it, ”[t]he human semiotic footprint has contributed to the deeply ingrained ideological view that humans are exceptional and that other species exist to be harvested and exploited for our benefit and profit”, going on to call for humans to ‘tidy up their semiotic act’ (2020: 214). In our view, a special responsibility pertains to those who not only participate in semiotic processes but also model and teach them.
In this symposium, we invite papers that respond to the animal turn, to the animal other, or more generally to the lives of nonhuman animals from a social semiotic or systemic functional perspective. We particularly welcome proposals that seek to advance nonhuman animals’ interests (though this may be a longterm goal beyond the specific academic project). Papers can include, but need not be limited to, the following topics:
- Inter- and intraspecies communication
- Animal advocacy and/or animal liberation
- Animals and the media
- Animals and education
- Animals and medicine
- Animals and the climate predicament
- Animal agriculture
- Animal studies or critical animal studies
- Animals and nationalism
- Animals and social justice
- Critical reflection on disciplinary theory and practice
Abstracts for papers should be sent to both symposium organisers (details below) by 9 JUNE. They should follow the ESFLC 2021 guidelines and contain a short title, name(s) of presenter(s), affiliation(s), a summary of up to 250 words (excluding references), and up to five key words.
For more information, please contact the symposium organisers, or visit the ESFLC 2021 website: https://www.esflc2021.org.uk
Alison Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Lees Fryer: email@example.com
Benson, James D. & William S. Greaves (eds). 2005. Functional Dimensions of Ape-Human Discourse. London: Equinox.
Benson, James D. & Paul Thibault. 2009. Language and other primate species. In Halliday, M.A.K. and Jonathan Webster (Eds) Continuum companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics, 104-112. London: Continuum.
Celermajer, Danielle, Schlossberg, David, Rickards, Lauren, et al. 2021. “Multispecies justice: theories, challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics.” Environmental Politics 30: 119-140.
Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and social change. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Halliday, M. A. K. 2003 . “Language in a changing world.” In Volume 3 in the collected works of M. A. K. Halliday. On language and linguistics, edited by Jonathan J. Webster, 213-231. London: Continuum.
Hodge, Robert, and Gunther Kress. 1988. Social semiotics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Knight, Naomi. 2006. Appraisal in bonobo-human culture: negotiating social behavioural parameters through evaluation with bonobo apes. Linguistics & the Human Sciences 2:355-376.
Kress, Gunther, and Robert Hodge. 1979. Language as ideology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Martin, J. R. 1992. English text: system and structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Martin, J. R. 2004. “Positive Discourse Analysis: Power, solidarity and change.” Revista canaria de estudios Ingleses 49: 179-202.
Moore, Alison Rotha. 2014. “That could be me: Identity and identification in discourses about food, meat, and animal welfare.” Linguistics & the Human Sciences 9: 59-93. Special Issue on Identity, edited by Alexanne Don.
Pedersen, Helena. 2014. “Knowledge production in the “animal turn”: multiplying the image of thought, empathy, and justice.” In Exploring the animal turn: human-animal relations in science, society and culture, edited by Erika Andersson Cederholm, Amelie Björck, Kristina Jennbert and Ann-Sofie Lönngren, 13-18. Lund: Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies.
Plumwood, Val. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Ritvo, Harriet. 2007. “On the animal turn.” Daedalus 136 (4): 118-122.
Thibault, P. (2020) ”Interspecies relationality in the Animal Rescue genre: Multimodal resources for empathy construction in video texts.” Section E in Baldry, A. & Thibault, P. with Coccetta, F., Kantz, D. & Taibi, D. ”Multimodal Ecological Literacy: Animal and human interactions in the Animal Rescue genre.” In Vasta, A. and Baldry, A. (eds). Multiliteracy advances and multimodal challenges in ELT environments. Udine: Forum.