Accepted Paper:

The country and the city: locating the peasant persona at the infra-national border in discourse about language  


Félix Danos (Université Paris-Descartes)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork conducted in rural Central France (Allier), I will look at discourses about linguistic practices qualified as "patois" in contrast to French, and the effects on the regimentation and hierarchization of people, of their social-semiotic association with spatiotemporal ensembles.

Paper long abstract:

France is generally said to consist of three romanic language areas: to the North, the Langue d'oïl, to the South, the Langue d'oc or occitan, and to the East and around the city of Lyon, what is known as francoprovençal. But this "tripartition of gallo-romania" (Tuaillon, 1976) is more than just a description of linguistic status, as it emerged scientifically in contrast to the putative existence of a homogeneous modern French nation, with only one language (standard French) (Zantedeschi, 2012). It is to be apprehended as an integral part of French nation-building, through a paradoxical process of both glorifying the diversity of folklore and languages within the Nation, and using this extreme diversity to justify the necessity for a monolingual, Parisian-centered state (Thiesse, 1997, 2003).

Stemming from this historical linguistic ideological discourse (Schieffelin, Woolard & Kroskrity, 1998; Silverstein, e.g.: 1979, 1992, 2003), the urban/rural, central/peripheral, native/foreign distinctions are nowadays reproduced and contested in metalinguistic discourse, and mapped onto social personnae (Agha 2005). They thus account for the contrastive emergence of images of territory, epoch and humans as social beings, of what Bakhtin called chronotope (1981).

Drawing from fieldwork conducted in a rural community in the Allier département (Central France), I will analyze the process of mapping categories of the rural vs. urban onto speaking selves and others, thereby essentializing or even naturalizing the rural peasent persona, and its (self-)marginalization within French national spacetime, through the chronotopic formulation (Agha 2007, 2015) of the infra-national border.

Panel Pol02
Imagining and creating walls, utopias, and co-fragile formations