A seminar from the Department of Language and Linguistics
This seminar explores the use of racist slurs against Ecuadorian indigenous leaders on Twitter.
Ecuador has a history of discrimination against its indigenous population dating back to the colonial period (Gómez Nadal 2017). The indigenous uprisings of the 1990s led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) brought about important changes, with indigenous peoples gradually gaining increased social and political representation as well as the recognition of Ecuador as a plurinational state in the 2008 Constitution. However, despite the gains they have made during the past few decades, ethnically based discrimination seems to persist. How such discrimination is enacted through language in face-to-face interethnic interactions in the Ecuadorian Andes has received some attention from anthropologists and sociologists, in particular (see, e.g., Cervone 1999; Carrillo Salgado 2002). On the other hand, a pragmatic perspective on this topic was offered by Placencia (2008).
From a critical pragmatics perspective and building on the works above and studies on slurs (e.g., Jucker 2000; Croom 2013) and (racist) insults (e.g., Guimarães 2003; Stokoe and Edwards 2007; Mateo and Yus 2013), in this seminar Professor Maria Elena Placencia examines the employment of racist slurs on Twitter against three indigenous leaders on Twitter during the 2021 presidential elections. Professor Maria Elena Placencia analyzes some aspects of the linguistic design of such slurs and the stereotypes that they invoke through which ethnic prejudice is (re)created. Her ultimate aim is to bring to light this kind of discursive racism perpetrated online. While studies on face-to-face interaction in the late 1990s and the 2000s have shown the use of veiled racism (see, e.g., Cervone 1999), social media platforms like Twitter offer a space where blatant verbal abuse appears to have resurfaced, aided by the anonymity that Twitter in this case allows. It is also behaviour that appears to go hand in hand with the increased political polarization of Ecuadorian society within the past 15 years.
*This study was carried out with the support of Birkbeck Research Innovation Fund.
Maria Elena Placencia is Professor of Linguistics and Spanish at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research interests are in the areas of (Spanish) sociocultural, variational and digital pragmatics. She has published extensively in these areas. Her recent book publications in collaboration include Complimenting Behaviour and (Self-)Praise across Social Media. New Contexts and New Insights (John Benjamins) and Guía práctica de pragmática del español (Routledge).
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