Language and Power
General Catalog Course Title:
Language and Power
Terms Offered:
Spring 2015
Fall 2013
Spring 2012
Spring 2011
Spring 2010
Course Thread: 
Human-Centered Design
Course Thread: 
Visible Language
Kramsch, Claire

 “Sticks and stones/ Can break my bones/ But words will never hurt me”. Won’t they ever? What is the relationship of words to a world where actions are supposed to ‘speak louder than words?’ This course is designed for students interested in the relationship of language, discourse, knowledge and action both in theory and in educational practice. We will deal with a variety of issues taken from different disciplines:
-    philosophy (Foucault, Butler) – e.g., language as social symbolic power
-    sociology (Bourdieu, de Certeau) – e.g., language as symbolic capital
-    semiotics (Barthes, Bakhtin) – e.g., language as social semiotic and dialogic action
-    linguistic discourse analysis (R.Lakoff, Cameron, Tannen) – e.g., intersection of language and ideology, gender, work.
However, this is not a philosophy, nor a sociology, nor a linguistics course. Rather, it explores the relationship of language, knowledge and power from an interdisciplinary perspective. The readings have been taken from scholars who have all, in one way or another, used the tools they were given by their respective disciplinary and institutional training to problematize the knowledge they had received within a specific educational system.

In the first two weeks, we will explore the nature of language: what it is, and how we say and do things with words. In the next five weeks the readings will help you understand the problematic nature of language and the way it is used to control knowledge, memory, history, and ultimately, our destinies. The next three weeks will examine the close relationship of language and ideology in to-day’s corporate and political discourse. Finally, because what people do with words can also be undone with words, the readings of the last three weeks will provide some possible answers to the question: So what can we do?

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.