Reinventing the linguistic landscape of a national protest

Corinne A. Seals


The relatively new field of linguistic landscapes takes as its goal the investigation of language in place and space. Drawing on previous notable linguistic landscape theories, I look to uncover how abstract space can become reappropriated and reinvented to create a voice for a suppressed minority.  More specifically, I examine how the ever-shifting landscape of a mass protest can use a “landscape of dissent” to change erasure into visibility.  This project focuses on documenting the linguistic landscape of the National Immigration Reform March that took place in the National Mall of Washington, DC on March 21, 2010.  Over 200,000 people attended this protest, with thousands of images and signs coming and going, constantly reinventing the landscape over the course of the day.  To conduct a qualitative multimodal analysis, I collected data focusing on written words, images, spoken words, and the mix of all of these within projected video.  The data include over 200 photographs and five videos taken over the course of four hours.  By focusing specifically on 32 photographs and three videos that best represent each aspect of the landscape, I uncover how individual and group identities are created and constantly shifting, while at the same time interacting with and supporting each other.  I conclude by showing how an image of solidarity emerges by reinventing the landscape to transform erasure into visibility and power.


linguistic landscapes; language and power; erasure; national protest; immigration reform

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria