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LINGUIST List 18.1456

Mon May 14 2007

Diss: Socioling: Flannery: 'Stories of Racial Discrimination in Bra...'

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        1.    Mercia Flannery, Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Message 1: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity
Date: 14-May-2007
From: Mercia Flannery <merciafsas.upenn.edu>
Subject: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Mercia Santana Flannery

Dissertation Title: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Deborah Schiffrin
Heidi E. Hamilton
Ronald Scollon

Dissertation Abstract:

Although much has been written about racism in Brazil, there has yet to be
substantial research on the language used by individuals who have been
subjected to racial discrimination. The extensive literature on race in
Brazil suggests that racism is still a widespread challenge in this country
well-known for its extensive miscegenation and pride in the commonly
accepted harmonious relations of its people.

This study investigates stories of racial discrimination collected in
sociolinguistic interviews with four individuals. The purpose of this
investigation is to uncover the genre's characteristics and describe the
linguistic strategies that the tellers use to convey their perception of
themselves. Specifically, it analyzes how four individuals convey a sense
of possessing a stigmatized identity, sometimes through their detachment
from protagonist's roles in the narratives.

It addresses the following questions: What are the similarities in the
kinds of discrimination reported and in the linguistic features used? How
does the use of specific linguistic features contribute to characterize an
experience as discriminatory and mark the relationship between the tellers
and their accounts?

This investigation of the discourse of racial discrimination highlights the
use of three main features: 1) pronoun choice and how it marks involvement
with, or detachment from, the events being narrated; 2) reported speech and
how it enables the tellers to position the characters vis-à-vis each other,
creating the roles of victim and perpetrator; 3) verbal forms and how the
depiction of the characters' actions unveils their participation in the

The combination of these linguistic features enables the tellers to convey
their identities as members of a stigmatized group. However, the signs of
affiliation to a stigmatized group are not always clear-cut. This
investigation reveals how the storytellers attempt to reconcile being
members of a stigmatized group, and having been subject to experiences of
discrimination, with their desire to be respected.

This study contributes to fill in the gap in the studies on language and
race adding to our understanding of how racism and discrimination influence
individuals' views of self. It combines narratives, stigma and language in
the interpretation of the speakers' identity.

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