Research agenda

My academic research agenda is organized around a core interest in the ways people use language and other semiotic modes to make sense of social difference in everyday communication. Specifically, I am keen to understand how identities of privilege and ideologies of inequality are discursively organized and sustained; this may be achieved through face-to-face exchanges, in mediatized representations (e.g. newspapers, magazines) or in the contexts of "new" media.

Difference is the motor that produces texts. Where there is no difference, no text comes into being.
Gunther Kress (1985, Linguistic Processes in Sociocultural Practice)


Identity is always a structured representation which only achieves its positive through the narrow eye of the negative.
Stuart Hall (1997, The Local and the Global)

My work draws on a range of academic traditions concerned with language and communication: sociolinguistics, discourse studies, linguistic anthropology and cultural studies. More broadly, it is framed by critical discourse studies and critical intercultural studies, two academic traditions that embrace more contemporary views of culture and cultural identity (see "Speaking of Difference", Thurlow, 2010). In keeping with their grounding in critical/social theory, both deliberately attend to questions of ideology/power and the interplay of micro-level social processes and macro-level social structures.

The concept of culture I espouse … is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that humans are animals suspended in webs of significance they themselves have spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning."
Clifford Geertz (1973, The Interpretation of Cultures).

The main thematics of my research agenda have, for some time, been Language and Global Mobility and Language and New Media. These are both sites of cultural difference and symbolic inequality less commonly investigated in mainstream language and communication studies.