Department of Philosophy

Philosophy Research Seminar - Mihaela Popa

Machicado Suite Willoughby Hall
Wednesday 21st November 2018 (15:00-17:00)
Matthew Duncombe

Mihaela Popa (University of Birmingham) leads our weekly research seminar in the Department of Philosophy

3pm, Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall

'How oppressive speech changes norms'

I shall explain how social norms are changed by particular kinds of speech, notably, but not only, oppressive speech. Following Lewis, we know that conversations can be thought of as games governed by rules. I suggest that we can think of conversational roles as indexing large numbers of these rules. I suggest that such conversational roles typically inherit from social roles. However, certain words can be used to create speech acts that assign new conversational roles, by drawing on and making salient social roles that are not initially at the forefront of the dialogue. Slurs are just such words, and slurring utterances are just such speech acts. Slurring utterances are speech acts of conversational role assignment where the assignment is of a low power role. The utterance is what Austin referred to as an exercitive, but one specifically restricted to having effects on the conversation. This idea allows us, with additional work, to explain: i) how the low-power roles assigned to targets leak out into the larger social game; ii) what motivates racists to use slurs and what needs to change for harmful norms to spread and become dominant; iii) effects on the target such as loss of conversational rights and silencing; iv) phenomena such as reclaim and offence variation. In fact, I claim that the idea can be seen in a much wider range of utterances, such as recent political speech and that there is an explanation of how conversational role assignments have social effects well beyond the dialogue.


Department of Philosophy

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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