The first sparks started to fly in Arab countries, where thousands of people took to the streets, squares and other public spaces making use of multilingual banners and signs to challenge government economic policies, and demand higher citizen participation in political life. This was soon followed in Iceland, and soon after in Spain. In spite of the differences in terms of the contexts, demands and motivations, these grassroots movements are characterised by diversity in terms of class and gender. They are primarily being led and constituted by people, who in different ways suffer the consequences of basic service cuts, and/or reject the economic system behind the current financial crisis, and behind their political regimes.
The conviction that only global actions can confront global problems explains the strong international focus of these movements, and the attempts to spread the flame of protest throughout the world. Other principles which define these movements are leaderless and horizontal forms of organisation; open assemblies as the main forums whereby consensus is reached on actions to be taken, and the movements’ demands; the central role of online social networks and of public spaces as places of intervention, communication and reunion. It is precisely within the context of all these new political practices that new linguistic practices may emerge. The focus of this panel is to assess the innovative nature of these practices.
Specifically, their labels and slogans (Dégagez, Indignados, From Tahrir to Sol) and the languages used by the demonstrators circulate through the Internet and the media, and pass from one country to another, thus interconnecting movements. These struggles share a global outlook, and make a particular use of multilingualism to address both global and local interlocutors, to create chains of interconnected discourse in order to join forces and build up new communities. Thus, the first aim of this panel will be to analyse the forms taken by this mobilisation of resources from different languages.
Besides this pervasive multilingualism, other transformations in the modes of production and circulation of discourses can be attested. In fact, the introduction of new political practices seems to require correlative discursive changes. In particular, the principles of horizontality and collective intelligence result in collectively produced discourses, deliberately anonymous, which challenge traditional authorship patterns. Other political practices also seem to have an impact in the production and circulation of discourses. In particular, it would be worth analysing the impact of the use of several online tools, and of the constantly monitoring of how the movements are portrayed in the media. Thus, the second aim of this panel will be to analyse the potential transformation of discursive practices in connection with some ideological features of these movements.
Finally, this panel will also analyse the implications and contradictions, which could emerge, or the tensions and inconsistences derived from the articulation between the local and the global. Some of the questions to be addressed will be: