Contributions for the edited volume: "Language of the Revolution. The discourse of anti-communist insurgencies in Central and Eastern Europe"

Contributions for the edited volume: "Language of the Revolution. The discourse of anti-communist insurgencies in Central and Eastern Europe"

Elena Păcurar and Eugen Wohl, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
From - Until
31.01.2023 -
Connections Redaktion, Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics, Universität Leipzig

Intended as an interdisciplinary addition to the ‘Palgrave Studies in Languages at War’, the present volume aims at investigating the linguistic implications of the many shapes and forms that the 1989 anti-communist revolutions took, from the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 to the bloody December revolution that brought about the end of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorial regime in Romania, as well as of their aftermath in the first years of transition to democracy.

Contributions for the edited volume: "Language of the Revolution. The discourse of anti-communist insurgencies in Central and Eastern Europe"

Our hope is to bring together specialists in applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, translation studies, intercultural communication, history, politics, international relations and cultural studies, able to shed light on the linguistic particularities of the aforementioned social upheaval that led to the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and preceded the transition to democracy. Perceived as a whole throughout the Cold War (1947-1991), the so-called “Eastern Bloc” managed to reveal its heterogeneity, the singularity of each of its comprising states and the multitude of its internal contrasts, most vividly perhaps, in the manifold manifestations of the 1989 anti-communist fight. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the nationwide demonstrations in Bulgaria, the Pan-European Picnic in Hungary, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia or the violent December revolution in Romania are concepts describing the many realities encompassing the decades-long struggle of Central and Eastern European countries for social and political independence.

These realities were expressed in various media and in ways which deserve a closer sociolinguistic investigation, especially with regard to the (in)flexibility of lexical forms or conceptual constraints imposed by the mechanisms of censorship, tabooisation, manipulation, cliché and the “wooden language” of communism. The history of the gradual transformation of words from forms of resistance to manifestations of dissidence and (ideological or political) opposition accounts for the existence of a parallel, autonomous, less audible/visible discourse/reality. The diffusion of this revolutionary or “contentious” (S. Tarrow) rhetoric through underground pamphlets, obscure broadsheets and alternative media can be traced throughout the countries of the Eastern Bloc, where the bitter use of irony, satire or humour of private conversation often helped dilute the staleness of the official langue de bois of public speech. The ambiguous, polysemantic nature of revolutionary language is seen as an expression of the multiple meanings (as well as causes) of the 1989 phenomena. Equally interesting are the illustrations of linguistic “decommunisation” and shift, gestures of reactive and retroactive poetic justice, visible in certain countries where the need to tone down the echoes of the past has led to cases of “language erasure” (e.g. derussification in some of the Baltic countries – A. Pavlenko). Last but not least, samples of linguistic recuperation – mostly visible in the post-1989 nostalgic, passeist discourses - could be contrasted with instances of linguistic reinvention and rejuvenation– through deliberate lexical foreignisation.

This original approach - focusing on language as a fundamental tool for simultaneously subjugating and liberating, concealing and incessantly searching for the truth, persecuting and surviving, discouraging dissidence and revolting - will unquestionably shed further light on the all-encompassing transformations occurring in this part of the world at the end of the 1980s. To no small extent, the Central and Eastern European anti-communist revolutions represented a triumph of “language against language”, an unchained effort to reclaim and recharge with meaning such concepts as “victory”, “freedom”, “democracy”, “people”, “equality”, “dignity”, rendered insignificant by their excessive or repetitive use in the propaganda of the oppressive apparatuses.

The contributions included in this volume stem from, but are not restricted to the following main topics:

- Misinformation, Disinformation, Truth: an exploration of the official discourse, as recorded in official media versus experienced reality. This section of the volume is seen as a platform for comparing and contrasting the “voiced” language of propaganda against the “voiceless” language of mis-represented everyday life. With access to unbiased information scarce (and quite frequently incidental) and disinformation rampant in undemocratic regimes, an ever-increasing rift appears between the public and private spheres of life, between who/what one is expected to be and who/what one actually is, a split often prone to misinformation. The studies included in this section will be dedicated to identifying the differences between these (parallel) discourses and their mirroring in the press, cultural media and/or non-fictional works, from a sociolinguistic perspective.

- Revolutions and the media: an investigation of the many-faced representations of the revolution in the media, on each side of the Iron Curtain. In an era pre-dating the World Wide Web and social networking, the media played a crucial role in depicting, orchestrating and mobilizing these social movements. The papers included in this section will focus on the perspectives brought forth by the mass media (newspapers, television, radio etc.), both “in front of” and “behind” the Iron Curtain, and will attempt to clarify its function in both obscuring the truth and galvanizing “media revolutions” (“radio revolutions”, “telerevolutions”).

- Words at war: The papers included in this section investigate the crucial role of language in the many forms of resistance and dissidence coagulating in Central and Eastern European countries ever since the end of World War II and culminating in the uprisings of 1989. The analyses frame the organization, functioning and communication systems of underground networks and resistance movements, the autonomy and intricacies of the process of samizdat circulation, the “subversive” language of anti-communist messages, pamphlets, posters and flyers, the variety of the critical discourse, as well as the response of the repressive structures against the “enemies of the people”.

- The conflict of interpretation: research focused on strategies of writing and reading “between the lines”, especially in the late 1980s. This section of the volume will give special emphasis to contributions about the transfer of information through/in translation (of fictional and non-fictional works alike), “double-speak”, translated “Trojan horses”, ideological inadequacies and “misfits”, cases of language “inhospitability”/untranslatability and (in)successful linguistic “transactions”.

- Words of comfort: The studies included in this section attempt to delineate the use of language in both remembering the victims of the anti-communist uprisings and conveying a sense of the impact of communism on individual lives. The scientific articles highlight the linguistic particularities of discourses of remembrance and commemoration and their (in)capacity to concurrently pay tribute to those having sacrificed their lives in the fight against totalitarianism and prevent history from repeating itself, their (in)ability to stay focused on the immeasurable human cost of the communist experience, while at the same time honouring the individual destinies lost in battle.

- Written, Spoken, Performed. Language of the revolution in literature, theatre and film: The scientific articles in this section explore how the insurgencies from Central and Eastern Europe are portrayed in literature, theatre and film; in memoirs, autobiographies, fiction (prose and poetry), documentary and feature films, plays and theatre productions depicting aspects of life in (post-)communist societies, as well as the revolutions themselves. The purpose is to take a closer look at the manner in which the discourse of memory is constructed in these works, the topics they choose to spotlight, as well as the role of individual, subjective experiences in conveying a better understanding of the “bigger picture”.

- Change of register: an examination of the movement from margin to centre, operated at the level of religious discourse before and after 1989. This section of the volume hosts research and investigations of: the ways in which religious discourse was shared within several confessional groups in multicultural regions of Central and Eastern Europe, (re)authorising/reinstating the authority of the post-revolutionary Church, reinforcing the position of the Church through new forms of (lexical) conservatism, (re)appropriation of religious discourse between religious commitment and political tool.

- The revolution of the word: mapping out the evolution of the lexical forms and loanwords in the post-communist business context and popular culture. This section of the volume is aimed at recording the gradual transition of national languages from their state of linguistic “provincialism” to intended “globalisation” through the lexical borrowings characteristic of a democratic, capitalist society. The phenomenon is all the more interesting when examined from within the specific fields of business or popular culture – where the permeability of such instances of lexical hybridisation is most visible and creative.

All proposals (abstract + paper) will be written in English.

Paper publication and calendar:

October 1, 2021: (extended) deadline for submission of proposed title and a 250-word abstract
November 1, 2021: (extended) deadline for confirmation of the acceptance/rejection of proposal
June 1, 2022: deadline for manuscript submission
Early 2023: (estimated) publication of volume

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Eugen Wohl

Elena Păcurar

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