Kara-Jane Lombard lecture
Language use and stereotyping
- Language, culture and communication
- Telling the story of others
- Subjectivity, othersation and stereotyping
- Critical reading
- language and culture are inextricably intertwined
- there are no neutral exchanges in communication
- language is socio-culturally embedded
Communication is not just about exchanging info, but it’s about creating relationships.
Introduction to Language
- Human language combines meaningless elements into meaningful structures
* phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics
Semantics: the meaning we attach to a particular word, lost in translation: the different meanings attached to a word in another culture.
Pragmatics: rules that govern what you say, how you say it…
Semiotics: the study of signs and meaning
Why is it important to think about language?
It is not neutral, even if it is taken for granted, and meaning is political. The production of meaning is a sign of power. Each human language is a logical, coherent system.
Models of Communication
- production of meaning is a sign of power
- how we engage with and read messages within a cultural context
- communication as the production and exchange of meanings
Transmission or Process Model
- communication is the transfer of meaning
- linear model: sender -> message -> receiver
The cultural model would:
- Look beyond the lack of English-speaking skills of the translator
- Focus on cultural differences
- Take into account that the translator is female
Theories for thinking about the relationships between languages and the world
- language is seen as reflective/mimetic – it describes the world
- language constructs the world through naming it
Semiotics finds that the link between words and meanings is not natural. And because meaning resides in language, language actually comes to produce reality.
The relationship between words and meaning is arbitrary and motivated. Meaning, therefore, is political.
Gender and language
- Meaning can be determined by gender
- Tymson (1998) says men and women use different styles of speech
Deborah Tannon: “You just don’t Understand.” (1990)
Misunderstandings often arise because women want to connect emotionally in a conversation and men like to impart knowledge. Early work that argues men and women belong to different communication cultures relies on essentialist, culturalist ideologies.
Language, prejudice and political correctness
- Language use reveals ideology
- Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: difference in language lead to large differences in experience and thought
- Why do some cultures take prejudicial language and alter the meanings of this language? Nigger becomes nigga, wog (Wog Boy) etc.
- Does political correct language simply hide prejudice?
Comedy can be used to question or combat stereotypes, foster an understanding of others and redefine them (or us)
Caryl Stern (Anti-Defamation League)
- Stereotyping: the ideal characterization of the foreign Other
- Prejudice: a judgment made on the basis of interest, not evidence
- Otherization: reducing the foreign Other to less than what they are
- Culturism: reducing the members of a group to pre-defined characteristics of a cultural label
Stereotypes are often infected by prejudice and this leads to otherzation.
Lawrence Hirschfeld: Stereotyping in itself is not actually negative. It’s natural. Stereotypes reduce the effort in thinking about something. Essentialism is simple, easy formula that we can use to engage in other people, groups or culture. Whereas, non-Essentialism is more obscure and complex. More time consuming.
Nair, M. (1991) Mississippi Masala
- Essentialism has a number of functions and different socio-political implications ) the understanding of the political and social forces that shape society and one’s status in it) at different times.
Stereotyping, prejudice and otherization are all components of Essentialism.
How the media plays a role in our perception of Others
Media representation intentionally or not, perpetuates Stereotypes
Narratives are told or untold solidify our beliefs that certain cultural groups are novel or normal in society.
Media images provide a scenario and reaction. By questioning popular media representation, our own identities (self, national) is actually learned. It’s not something natural. It’s a result of cultural history.
“The real other for the white Australian will always be black.” (Vijay Mishra, 1987 np)
- The ‘Other’ is that which we are not
- It is the one half of a binary (two terms that work together: black/white; male/female) opposition that is marked by difference:
* power is equated with the ‘normal’, the ‘Other’ as deviant/strange
* ‘Other’ as different or exotic – therefore disempowered.
In texts, who is the other? Who is being disempowered?
Meaning is an area where ideology is contested.
The production of meaning is a sign of power. Whose meaning gets produced in society? Who has the power?
The media can affect out perception by encouraging preferred meaning of any particular text.
Points to think about in relation to your analysis of media representations:
- To read a text is to negotiate with power structures
- The media can affect our perception of others by encouraging a ‘preferred’ reading. Paying attention to ideology helps us see how meaning is created and naturalized.
- Cultural difference can affect the interpretation and the representation of a topic.