Sources, conversations, beyond disciplines

Discourse studies draws on a multiplicity of sources. It does not belong to a one particular discipline, but rather it is driven by questions, problems and processes related to complex, vibrant and emergent relationship between language and society. Thus, the term studies that aims at indicating this qualitative change in research interests. One strong hold of discourse studies is in the broad field of language studies. At the same time, discourse studies draw on a wide range of sociological, political and anthropological theories and concepts in conceptualising the relationship between language and society. Often, it is hard to put our multi-layered, rhizomatic work in a neatly delineated, disciplinary driven ‘box’, and discourse studies of language in society regularly interacts with other fields of research, with linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics and ethnographic approaches as our most close allies.

What makes the discourse studies non-binary assemblage, however, is not the multiplicity of sources upon which it draws upon but the multiplicity of conversations in which it engages. The linguistic turn drastically altered the social sciences, from geography over economics to law and political science. It is in this aftermath that discourse, performativity, and praxis have come to substitute established fictions of order and structure and now being expanded towards approaches and concepts, such as nexus, rhizome and assemblage, to capture the emergent multiplicity and complexity of social issues we are interested in examining. It is precisely at this point that the combination of discourse studies and ethnography that we advocate has on offer a unique proposal: a methodology for rendering the discursive texture of our everyday experience and institutional processes analytically tangible. In this way, we intend to take the study of the social life to the next level, beyond the textual artefacts and statistics that our bureaucracies create.

Below you find some readings that give an idea of how we understand this multiplicity of conversations. It lists (in an alphabetical order) both classic texts that we find helpful in thinking through how discourse studies, sociolinguistics, and (linguistic) anthropology relate to each other and to social science at large, as well as case studies (in some of which we were involved ourselves) that exemplify what such research embedded in such multiple conversations might actually look like.


Büscher, K., D’hondt, S., & Meeuwis, M. (2013). Recruiting a nonlocal language for performing local identity: Indexical appropriations of Lingala in the Congolese border town Goma. Language in Society42(5), 527-556.

Cavanaugh, J. R., & Shankar, S. (2014). Producing authenticity in global capitalism: Language, materiality, and value. American Anthropologist116(1), 51-64.

D’hondt, S. (2020). One confession, multiple chronotopes: The interdiscursive authentication of an apology in an international criminal trial. Journal of Sociolinguistics. (open access)

D’hondt, S. (2019). Humanity and Its Beneficiaries: Footing and Stance-Taking in an International Criminal Trial. Signs and Society7(3), 427-453.

D’hondt, S. (2013). Analyzing equivalences in discourse: Are discourse theory and membership categorization analysis compatible?. Pragmatics23(3), 421-445.

Duchêne, A. and M. Heller (eds) (2012): Language in Late Capitalism: Pride and Profit. Routledge.

Duranti, A. (2003). Language as culture in US anthropology: Three paradigms. Current anthropology44(3), 323-347.

Heller, M. (2003), Globalization, the new economy, and the commodification of language and identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 7: 473-492. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2003.00238.x

Heller, M., Pietikäinen, S. & Pujolar, J. (2018). Critical Sociolinguistic Research methods. Studying language issues that matter. Routledge.

Heller, M., Pietikäinen, S. & da Silva, E. (2017). Body, Nature, Language: Artisans to Artists in the Commodification of AuthenticityAnthropologica, 59 (1), 114–129. doi:10.3138/anth.591.A01. Open access.

Pietikäinen, S. (2016). Critical debates: Discourse, boundaries and social change. In N. Coupland (Ed.), Sociolinguistics: Theoretical Debates (pp. 263-281). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781107449787.013

Rampton, B. (1999). Sociolinguistics and cultural studies: New ethnicities, liminality and interaction. Social Semiotics9(3), 355-373.

Strömmer, M. (2021). In the name of security: Governmentality apparatus in a multilingual mine in Arctic Finland. Journal of Sociolinguistics (open access)

Strömmer, M. (2016). Affordances and constraints: Second language learning in cleaning work. Multilingua, 35 (6), 697–721. doi:10.1515/multi-2014-0113