Jan Blommaert

Jan Blommaert
Tilburg University | UVT · Center for Studies of Superdiversity "Babylon"

PhD African Studies (Ghent University 1989)

About

308
Publications
287,873
Reads
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17,166
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Introduction
I have a background in African Studies (PhD Ghent 1989) and am active in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, discourse analysis and literacy research, always focused on (a) the sociocultural effects of globalization, especially new forms of superdiversity, (b) existing and new sociocultural inequalities in superdiverse contexts, and (c) the social-theoretical implications of all this. Please do not send me requests for feedback, as I have very little opportunities to respond to them.
Additional affiliations
October 2013 - present
University of the Western Cape
Position
  • Extraordinary Professor, Faculty of Arts (honorary appointment)
October 2009 - present
Tilburg University
Position
  • Professor of Language, Culture and Globalization
September 2009 - present
Tilburg University
Position
  • Professor of Language, Culture and Globalization
Description
  • Intercultural Communication, Language and globalization, globalization studies, ethnographic research methodology
Education
September 1985 - April 1989
Ghent University
Field of study
  • African History and Philology

Publications

Publications (308)
Article
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Recent developments in the study of language in society have moved the field increasingly away from linear models towards complex models. The complexity of timespace as an aspect of what is called “context” is of key importance in this development, and this article engages with two possibly useful concepts in view of this: chronotope and scale. Chr...
Article
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This paper discusses modernist reactions to postmodern realities. Asylum seekers in Western Europe-people typically inserted into postmodern processes of globalization-are routinely subjected to identification analyses that emphasize the national order. The paper documents the case of a Rwandan refugee in the United Kingdom whose nationality was di...
Article
‘Context collapse’ (CC) refers to the phenomenon widely debated in social media research, where various audiences convene around single communicative acts in new networked publics, causing confusion and anxiety among social media users. The notion of CC is a key one in the reimagination of social life as a consequence of the mediation technologies...
Book
This edited volume consists of chapters celebrating the career of scholar Sjaak Kroon, who has produced ground-breaking work in the field of ethnography of education, immigrant minority language teaching and language politics. The chapters cover the use of immigrant minority languages in education and the development of policies at all levels and a...
Presentation
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Ethnopoetics
Article
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Preface People are constantly telling stories, and those stories have a number of characteristics:-they are told to others, and with others, stories are interactional things;-they have a function, and they are usually argumentative: people try to make a point through stories;-they have a non-arbitrary form, an effect of the intended function and th...
Article
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Two of my maîtres à penser died relatively young. Michel Foucault was 57, Erving Goffman was 60. It is highly likely that I shall die relatively young as well. I'm 58 now, and I have been diagnosed with cancer stage 4 in mid-March 2020. Since there is suddenly very little future left to plan, speculate or dream about, one tends to use such landmark...
Article
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Memes as online graphic semiotic resources have developed into a globalized genre and a cultural form. The vernacularization of this global cultural form on Chinese social media is Biaoqing (literally, ‘facial expression’). Biaoqing is a phenomenon and a genre engendered by the development of information technology and growing accessibility to the...
Article
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Starting from the profound impact of Kenneth Arrow's Impossibility Theorem on the social sciences of the postwar twentieth century, this essay engages with the ways in which mathematics can be seen as a language-ideologically inflated notational system. In the mid-twentieth century, a profound belief in mathematics as a purely objective and non-ide...
Article
Conspiracy theories are often disqualified as inadequate and deliberate forms of misinformation. In this analysis, we engage with a specific case, the conspiracy theory developed on an online New Right forum called Q about the so-called "MAGA Kid incident" with focus on its circulation and uptake on Facebook. Drawing on ethnomethodological principl...
Article
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In his contribution to the Special Issue "Digital and semiotic mechanisms of contemporary populisms", Jan Blommaert offers a communicability model which accounts for political discourse (and others) in the post-digital era we live. He starts by arguing that the idea of the public (a homogeneous entity) that was very popular in the 20 th century soc...
Book
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In the context of migration policies in Belgium in the 1990's, this book analyses the discourse of the 'tolerant' majority, as found in news reporting, policy statements, social-scientific research reports, anti-racism campaigns and training programs. The analysis reveals what the authors call a 'homogeneistic' ideology, fundamental non-acceptance...
Article
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In the light of Huizinga’s conceptualisation of play and Bakhtinian carnival theory, this article exemplifies the ludic-carnivalesque qualities of female masochism on China’s social media. Arguably, the joint venture of play and carnival frameworks allows a de-pathological account of female masochism under the male gaze and a reclaiming of the femi...
Article
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The COVID19 crisis of early 2020 reveals some of the key features of contemporary globalization processes. It is driven by global mobility patterns, and control over these patterns is the central tool for containing the epidemic. The crisis also changes in nature when it crosses scales.
Chapter
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Based on an examination of Chinese online practices for constructing and marketing a particular image of feminine beauty called "baifumei", we argue that in such online chronotopes, identity work revolves around ludic practices of "selfie" performance.
Article
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The nature of political discourse has changed in societies in which digital media have become part of social structure. Forms of political discourse analysis need to follow. I discuss three fundamental challenges for contemporary online-offline political discourse analysis in this paper.
Article
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Contemporary societies are strongly marked by a new complex web of relations, regulations and practices much as a response to new globalization processes along with the advent of digital media technologies. Human mobility, in particular, becomes a key element in the understanding of recent times as it has brought an unprecedented diversification of...
Conference Paper
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The paradigmatic impact of superdiversity not only forces us to go beyond accepted notions regarding the relation between people, identities, language, and space; it also forces to engage with the development of new methodologies. In this paper, we introduce Digital Ethnographic Linguistic Landscape analysis or ELLA 2.0 ) as a new methodology to st...
Article
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A model of linguistic landscape analysis adjusted to the online-offline nexus, in which physical emplacement of signs is accompanied by, and inextricably intertwined with, online signs.
Article
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Sociolinguistic stratification-the fact that language diversity is turned into inequality through processes of normative judgment-has been central in the development of modern sociolinguistics and has kept researchers' attention for many decades. The online-offline nexus in which we have learned to live and organize our social lives in online as we...
Book
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In online interactions, we usually lack reliable access to the individual and collective identity diacritics. This has considerable effect on theory and methodology, and some of them are addressed in this working document. We explore the purchase of an action-centered discourse-analytical strategy, inspired by Garfinkel and others, for getting towa...
Article
jats:title>Abstract The papers in this volume all articulate a keen awareness of the shift in sociolinguistic economies caused by online technologies. We now live in an online-offline nexus of communication, and realizing this invites changes in the ways in which we traditionally view and imagine the foundations of our disciplinary approaches. In r...
Article
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A review of the specific difficulties arising in online ethnographic fieldwork. Algorithmic effects put observers in a bubble which is compelling; they also shape new types of actors and communities, and force us to focus on action rather than on persons.
Article
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In this commentary, I offer a review of how sociolinguistic scales featured in the development of my own work over the past decade. Scales, I explain, were always indispensable as an imaginative concept allowing a reimagination of sociolinguistic facts, but the concept of scales was never sufficient to adequately address this reimagined reality. I...
Preprint
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Conspiracy theories are often disqualified as inadequate and deliberate forms of misinformation. In this analysis, we engage with a specific case, the conspiracy theory developed on an online Alt-Right forum called Q about the so-called "MAGA Kid incident". The analysis shows how ergoic argumentation is systematically being deployed as a means of d...
Article
After a brief discussion of how the notion of chronotope enables us to address issues of context and contextualization in a more adequate way, this commentary turns to how, in the papers of this volume, two major themes emerge. One is about chronotope as a primarily moral notion; the other about chronotopic relations as forms of synchronization, wh...
Article
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Ethnographic Linguistic Landscape Analysis (ELLA) has over the past few years proven to be a very sensitive tool for detecting changes in superdiverse environments. It has allowed us to distinguish between various types of presence and ownership of different communities within one physical space, and it also added complexity to what more convention...
Article
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Online representations of identity constitute an object in their own right, the Selfie. Examining them demands an action-centered perspective. This paper outlines such a perspective and illustrates it with reference to Chinese social media phenomena.
Article
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Ethnographic Linguistic Landscape Analysis (ELLA) has over the past few years proven to be a very sensitive tool for detecting changes in superdiverse environments. It has allowed us to distinguish between various types of presence and ownership of different communities within one physical space, and it also added complexity to what more convention...
Article
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Attention for family language planning emerged after the failure of top-down language policy-and-planning studies and experiments, and takes a theoretically very different stance on power.
Article
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Christian W. Chun, The discourses of capitalism: Everyday economists and the production of common sense. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017. Pp. 159. Pb. £29.99. - Volume 47 Issue 4 - Jan Blommaert
Article
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The hashtag #justsaying is one of Twitter’s global stock hashtags. The hashtag is nontopical and appears to fulfill a complex range of metapragmatic framing functions. In this paper, I shall look at Dutch-language tweets in which the hashtag is being used as a fully enregistered ‘translingual’ framing device, and I will attempt an analysis focused...
Conference Paper
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A sociolinguistic perspective on key concepts from sociological theory has important revisionist effects on such concepts. This paper examines the sociological notion of "integration" and confronts it with the communication universe of two contemporary diasporic subjects.
Article
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Do we really need yet another word for context? What’s new about chronotopes? This paper explains how the notion of chronotope provides a critical check of the validity and analytical power of the term “context”, allowing us to observe superficial and inadequate ways in which that older term is often used, and to suggest more precise understandings...
Article
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The point of departure for this chapter is the contention that the online-offline communicative economy in which we now live compels us to rethink some of the core vocabulary and assumptions underlying our thinking about ‘context’ and ‘contextualization’ in discourse studies. We formulate a set of proposals grounded in the interactionist tradition...
Chapter
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Longitudinal ethnographic research in a superdiverse neighborhood in inner-city Antwerp (Belgium) shows that, in spite of continuously and rapidly changing demographic patterns, a relatively stable lingua franca has emerged, which I call “oecumenical Dutch”. Rather than one identifiable variety, oecumenical Dutch is best seen as a continuum of “acc...
Book
Sociolinguistic evidence is an undervalued resource for social theory. In this book, Jan Blommaert uses contemporary sociolinguistic insights to develop a new sociological imagination, exploring how we construct and operate in online spaces, and what the implications of this are for offline social practice. Taking Émile Durkheim’s concept of the ‘s...
Article
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The use of 'home language' as a variable in much language-in-education research is based on a set of unquestioned sociological and sociolinguistic assumptions that do not stand the test of ethnographic scrutiny. Outcomes of such research are fundamentally flawed.
Article
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One of the old assumptions of sociolinguistic research is that of the 'local': a bounded and autonomous spacetime unit within which research can be conducted. The 'local' is an undertheorized and under-methodologized part of 'context' (another problematic notion), and this paper addresses some of the challenges to this notion in an era of online gl...
Article
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There are forms of scientific activity that are rarely practiced by sociolinguists, and one of them is the self-conscious construction of theory. Sociolinguists appear to share a self-perception of staunchly empirical analysts devoted to the rigorous empirical exploration of sociolinguistic details and the patterns in which they can be understood....
Chapter
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SUPER-DIVERSITY OFFERS SCHOLARS a broad range of opportunities to revise and rethink parts of their conceptual vocabulary in attempts to arrive at more sensitive and accurate tools for thought and analysis. The recognition of a reality that might, in some respects and to some degree, have always been there but was never enregistered in theoretical...
Book
This book is the fruition of five years? work in exploring the idea of superdiversity. The editors argue that sociolinguistic superdiversity could be a source of inspiration to a wide range of post-structuralist, post-colonial and neo-Marxist interdisciplinary research into the potential and the limits of human cultural creativity and societal rene...
Article
Mobility raises specific issues with regard to what we understand by “context”, and in this commentary I suggest that Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope could be a useful instrument enabling a precise and detailed, mobile, unit of “context”. This unit connects specific timespace arrangements with ideological and moral orders, projecting possible and p...
Article
Integration is usually seen as one process, and language proficiency is often defined as the key to it. In this brief essay, I argue that integration consists of multiple very different processes of a highly specific nature, requiring highly specific register-genre competences. The endpoint of integration, and the usefulness of language therein, co...
Article
Based on an analysis of a globalized graffiti-event called Meeting of Styles, in Berchem (Antwerp, Belgium), August 2015, this paper makes two elementary points. One, and in general sociological terms, understanding contemporary social and cultural processes is difficult when we do not take into account the complex dialectics between “offline” and...
Article
Saussurean and Chomskyan “conduit” views of meaning in communication, dominant in much of expert and lay linguistic semantics, presuppose a simple, closed and linear system in which outcomes can be predicted and explained in terms of finite sets of rules. Summarizing critical traditions of scholarship, notably those driven by Bateson’s view of syst...
Book
Neemt een ‘werknemer’ werk? Kan een loon een ‘last’ of een ‘handicap’ zijn? Wat bedoelen onze politici wanneer ze zeggen dat we ‘zuurstof ’ aan ‘onze economie’ moeten geven? En op wie slaat de crisis in het begrip ‘vluchtelingencrisis’? Politiek is een wereld van woorden en beelden, en vaak zijn we overrompeld door wat we horen, zien en lezen. We v...
Research
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An application of Bakhtin's ideas on chronotopes to the study of identities in superdiverse contexts
Chapter
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This paper argues that Bourdieu’s oeuvre presents a radically new set of images on man and society in which language, as object and practice, assumes a key role. Three aspects of Bourdieu’s work are highlighted: (1) Bourdieu’s New Left-inspired search for a “socialized humanity” and his related interest in American symbolic interactionism; (2) the...
Article
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This paper engages with the ways in which formal learning environments increasingly have to compete with informal ones, where such informal learning environments can be seen as penetrations from global ‘scapes’ into local conditions of circulation and uptake of semiotic resources. The study is based on close observation of a group of upwardly mobil...
Research
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In these two reflection pieces, I develop (a) the notion of "moralized behavioral scripts" as the empirical aspect of identity work, and (b) the idea of "light" communities driving contemporary social change.
Article
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Much of what we see in the way of contemporary identity practices shows that identities are closely tied to specific timespace configurations. we call this phenomenon "chronotopic identities"
Book
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The papers in this volume all address aspects of communication that are often dismissed as "trivial" or "small talk", and argue that such forms are in actual fact crucial instruments for sustaining a Goffmanian level of social cohesion through conviviality. Contributors: Jan Blommaert, Piia Varis, Fie Velghe, Zane Goebel, Tilmann Heil and Ben Rampt...
Research
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The text, in Dutch, of the "Emile Verhaeren Lecture 2002-3", Free University of Brussels, April 2003. Never published.
Book
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This book persuasively argues the case that ethnography must be viewed as a full theoretical system, rather than just as a research method. Blommaert traces the influence of his reading of classic works about ethnography on his thinking, and discusses a range of authors who have influenced the development of a theoretical system of ethnography, or...
Article
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Article
Full-text available
This paper argues that Bourdieu’s oeuvre presents a radically new set of images on man and society in which language, as object and practice, assumes a key role. Three aspects of Bourdieu’s work are highlighted: (1) Bourdieu’s New Left-inspired search for a “socialized humanity” and his related interest in American symbolic interactionism; (2) the...
Article
Full-text available
This paper shows how we manufacture authenticity by blending a vari-ety of semiotic resources, some of which are sufficient ("enough") to produce a particular targeted authentic identity, and consequently enable others to identify us as "authentic" members of social groups within different "micro-hegemonies." In contexts of rapid sociocultural chan...
Article
In a recent paper, the Australian historian, Martyn Lyons (2013), reviews his attempts to study ‘history from below’, using what can be called grassroots writing by French and Italian soldiers of the Great War. Lyons remarks that the ‘First World War produced a flood of letter-writing by peasants whose literary capacity has often been underestimate...
Chapter
This chapter engages with an ethnography of learning, i.e., a moment in which ethnography becomes an active learning process of a particular linguistic and literacy instrument, ‘textspeak’ in a local variety of the supervernacular of mobile phone texting code in a township around Cape Town. In the context of research on the use of mobile phones, th...
Conference Paper
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In this polemical essay, I intend to engage with the current system of academic publishing, in light of the debates about possible Open Access publishing strategies. I write my remarks from my own position in the field: as an Arts scholar (a linguistic anthropologist to be precise), tenured at a European University (Tilburg University, to be precis...
Article
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An edition of one version of the life history of "Julien", described and analyzed in "Grassroots Literacy" (Routledge 2008). A very rare document.
Article
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In the superdiverse neighborhood of Berchem, Antwerp, a continuum of nonnative forms of Dutch forms a local lingua franca, the deployment of which ensures a level of social cohesion we call "conviviality".
Article
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This is a "post-publication" of a contribution with the same title to Joana Duarte & Ingrid Gogolin (eds.) (2013), Linguistic super-diversity in urban areas: Research approaches, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, p. 275-296. As a consequence of serious editorial problems this text had quite some mistakes that make it hard to understand, especially in the...