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KIE Scholar examines role of language in ‘ingrouping’ and ‘outgrouping’

Senior Research Scholar Rebecca Kukla recently published a new paper in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association, titled “Ingrouping, Outgrouping, and the Pragmatics of Peripheral Speech,” and co-authored with graduate student Cassie Herbert.

The Journal of the American Philosophical Association, a new general philosophy journal appearing quarterly beginning in March 2015, promotes both scholarly work in philosophy and the exchange of ideas among philosophers and between philosophy and other fields. It represents the diversity of philosophy as a discipline, and it welcomes submissions from any area of philosophy.

Here’s an excerpt from Kukla and Herbert’s paper:

In recent years, there has been a burst of attention to how speech acts can constitute situated exercises of power that may create, enforce, or dismantle agency and identity; speech acts can subordinate, silence, grant rights and statuses, resist and reconstitute identity and more.

In this essay we continue along this path, but enhance it in what we think are two new ways:

First, while others have begun to look at how social and community identity shapes the force of speech acts, we want to look at how speech can constitute and negotiate the boundaries of communities themselves. Speech does not merely reflect and depend upon social identity; it helps create it, by ingrouping and outgrouping individuals and establishing and clarifying community boundaries and norms of membership.

Second, we focus on a kind of speech that we think has flown almost entirely under the philosophical radar, which we term peripheral speech: Peripheral speech is, by definition, not the main show or the primary mechanism by which business gets done. It is the informal, typically playful, insider speech that forms the marginalia and the glue holding together the web of discursive practices of a community. It includes inside jokes, riffs, gossip, and insider references; it is fluid and only loosely constrained, and only those who have skills, discursive knowhow, and normative competence characteristic of a community can play along successfully. It is shared by a community, but also used to bring people into it and cast people out of it. Peripheral speech has – perhaps unsurprisingly – received virtually no direct analytic attention. Yet in our view it plays a fascinating and critical role (or set of roles) in constituting positive shared identities and negotiating the boundaries of communities.

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