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Berkeley Workshop on Emancipatory Pragmatics

Workshops on Emancipatory Pragmatics have been held since 2007 in Tokyo, Japan and Sebha, Libya in our effort to let the academic wind blow multi-directionally. We held our most recent workshop from January 3rd to January 5th and it was hosted by Bill Hanks, Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. It was a truly inspiring and exciting workshop with a congenial atmosphere. The topics discussed around the theme of Emancipatory Pragmatics were varied and intellectually stimulating. Topics presented included:

  • 'The Pragmatics of Listening: The Constitution of Listening Genres in Buenos Aires, Argentina' by Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas
  • 'Language Emergence as Condensation in the Seattle Deaf-Blind Community' by Terra Edwards
  • 'Identity Conception and Authority Dependence in Consensus-Building Interactions' by Yasuhiro Katagiri
  • 'Communication Technologies and the Practice of Oyakoko ('filial piety') in Japanese Families' by Chiho Sunakawa
  • 'Transformation of Multimodal Sings into Narrative: A Case Study of a Japanese TV Commercial' by Kuniyoshi Kataoka
  • 'Emancipatory Pragmatics and Knowledge Circulation' by Jacob Mey
  • 'Emancipatory Pragmatics for an Ecology of the Global Public Sphere' by Jef Verschueren
  • 'The Fragility of Sense-Making: Scalar, Social, and Ethical Dimensions of Local Sign in Nepal' by Mara E. Green
  • and 'Going Against the Tide?, Status Honorifics and the Logic of ba in Thai' by Songthama Intachakra.
My contribution was titled, 'Rethinking Linguistic Politeness from the Perspective of Ba/Field Theory.' Three presentations explicitly discussed the logic of ba as the explanatory frame for their discourse phenomena.

Clearly, there was much interest in the logic of ba and the extensive discussions on the subject continued through the end workshop and into the following dinner. It was Jef and Xochitl who discussed the difference between the concept of 'ba' and 'field' a la P. Bourdieu and concluded that the term ba should be introduced into English just as wakimae was. While in the former, a person (a self, an ego, or an actor) is considered as an element embedded in the space ('ba'), in the latter, the person is in control of the space ('field'). In other words, 'ba' is perceived subjectively whereas 'field' is recognized objectively.

(Reference: Epilogue to the 25th Anniversary Edition: A Dialogue on the Ideas of "World" and "Field" by Howard S. Becker and Alain Pessin, In Howard S. Becker Art Worlds: 25th Anniversary Edition Updated and Expanded, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)
Below are the abstract and the power point slides of my presentation.

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