About the conference

BTWS #2: Marginality and Centrality in Contradictory Discourses of Religious and National Belonging

October 18th and 19th 2019

Åbo Akademi University, Åbo/Turku, Finland

This year’s conference in the Bremen-Turku-Warsaw-Stockholm Series on Studies in Discourse and Contradiction focuses on declarations of marginal and central belonging with a particular focus on religion and nationality. We aim to investigate both declarations of marginal and central belonging to groups as well as declarations of marginal and central belonging of groups to society. An example for these kinds of communicative practices is the political disputes on the status of Islam within the German national community. The sentence “Islam belongs to Germany”, uttered in various forms by a number of politicians since the 2000s, is inclusive while at the same time reproducing a marginal position of the religion within society as it comprises the possibility of its negation.

While this example clearly demonstrates the excluding and discriminatory forces of declarations of marginal belonging, marginality does not always appear to be something to fear, nor is it always a position that individuals and groups are trapped in despite their wishes. It can in seemingly contradictory cases be something that individuals and groups actively seek, something that they in different ways and for different ends try to claim for themselves. For example, right-wing populist politicians declare that they and their voters are being marginalised by other political groups. In this logic, a motivation for their politics is the reclamation of a central position in the nation state, which they construct as rightfully theirs. In this case, a self-positioning as marginal or marginalised appears to be an empowering group strategy. Therefore, the conference will not only deal with the discursive processes of the production of marginality and centrality, but also with the agency that emerges from marginal and central positions.

Starting from these observations, we are interested in theoretical and empirical research that analyses contradictory discourses of belonging to religious, national and other groups and of these groups to society as a whole. These belongings can be expressed in agendas, arenas, and agencies.

  • Agendas: When are claims of marginal and central belonging used strategically by individuals and groups for themselves or for others to gain rights, power, status or resources?
  • Arenas: In which forums and through which media do individuals and groups negotiate their and others’ belonging and stance?
  • Agencies: What are the possible options for action arising from marginal and central positions?

The organisers approach these topics from an interdisciplinary linguistic perspective, and have invited researchers from different disciplines to contribute to disciplinary and interdisciplinary discussions.

The conference languages are English and German.