David BleichNov 7, 2013
The Materiality of Language
Gender, Politics and the University
Indiana University Press 2013
David Bleich's book The Materiality of Language: Gender, Politics and the University (Indiana University Press, 2013) is described as a wide-ranging critique of academic practice, which is almost an understatement. From the point of view of someone working in linguistics as (at least in principle) a scientific discipline, his thesis is interesting and provocative. He argues forcefully for the relevance of language, construed as a material entity, across a wide range of disciplines (and to life in general), and challenges the focus on treating language as a cognitive phenomenon and studying it in abstract terms. In this interview, I resist the temptation to take up a defensive position on behalf of cognitive linguists. Instead, we talk about the role of academic history in shaping current scientific practice, and the possible consequences of that for power dynamics, with particular reference to gender. And we look at some of things the study of language might contribute to - for want of a less ambitious term - the future well-being of humanity.