Ruth Wodak: ‘The Language of Walls’ – Analyzing Right-Wing Populist Discourse

Inclusion and exclusion of migrants and refugees are renegotiated in the European Union on almost a daily basis: ever new policies defining and restricting immigration are proposed by EU-ropean member states. A re-nationalization can be observed, on many levels: traditions, rules, languages, visions, and imaginaries are affected. Walls have – again – become symbols of belonging inside – or of being excluded and having to stay outside! Should we thus agree with Robert Frost’s famous phrase “Good fences make good neighbors”?

In my lecture, I will analyze these recent developments in respect to immigration and asylum policies across Europe from a discourse-historical perspective, especially in respect to the rise of right-wing populist parties across Europe (Wodak 2015, The Politics of Fear, Sage). I focus on the discursive construction of national and transnational identities and related ‘border and body politics’: Who are the neighbors, who the strangers? Who proposes – and why – to ‘save’ our country from strangers? The data – analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively – consist of a range of genres, from the UK, Austria, Germany, France, etc (citizenship tests and language tests, party programs, TV documentaries, and election campaign materials).

Ruth Wodak is Emerita Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies at Lancaster University, UK, and affiliated to the University of Vienna. She continues to develop the Discourse-Historical Approach, one of the key approaches within the field of discourse studies, combining ethnography, historical approach, argumentation theory and linguistics. Her research interests focus on discourse studies, gender studies, language and/in politics, prejudice and discrimination and on ethnographic methods of linguistic field work.

In addition to various other prizes, she was awarded the Wittgenstein Prize for Elite Researchers in 1996, Honorary Doctorate from University of Örebro in Sweden in 2010 and Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria in 2011. She was the President of the Societas Linguistica Europaea and is currently a member of the British Academy of Social Sciences and Academia Europaea.

She is a co-editor of the journals Discourse and Society, Critical Discourse Studies and Language and Politics and a member of the editorial board of a range of linguistic journals.  She has held visiting professorships at the University of Uppsala, Stanford University, University of Minnesota, University of East Anglia and Georgetown University. During the spring 2016, she was a Distinguished Schuman Fellow at the Schuman Centre, EUI, Florence.

Ruth Wodak has published 10 monographs, 27 co-authored monographs, over 60 edited volumes and a large number of peer reviewed journal papers and book chapters.  Her recent publications include The Politics of Fear. What Right-wing Populist Discourses Mean (2015; translation into the German 2016), a new edition of Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (2015), Analyzing Fascist Discourse: Fascism in Talk and Text (2013), four comprehensive volumes on Critical Discourse Analysis (2012), The Discourse of Politics in Action: Politics as Usual (2011), Migration, Identity and Belonging (2011) and The Discursive Construction of History: Remembering the German Wehrmacht’s War of Annihilation (2008).