Archive for September, 2010

29 September 2010

the discourse of spam

In The Sociolinguistics of Globalization, Jan Blommaert offers an interesting analysis of those emails we have all received from lawyers offering to transfer the funds of our long-lost uncles to us. “Globalized genres of fraud” he calls them.

He outlines how these hoax emails comply with a range of linguistic and discursive features, from a technical, businesslike subject containing number references, an announcement of the problem and the procedure to be complied with, requests for confidentiality, and appropriate terms of address, closing formulae, etc.

The problem with most of the emails he analysed is that although they perfectly adhere to broad genre patterns, they struggle with basic literacy.

Today I received a top-notch email. My favourite hoax to date.

P.O BOX 55, NEW YORK NY, 10116-0555

This is to notify you that we have intercepted your parcel from DHL/UPS courier service from delivering the parcel to you for security reasons as stated below.

1. Our scanning system detected your parcel containing a confirmable
Before the parcel could be delivered, you are obliged to obtain A Duly Sworn Affidavit from the Spanish High Court in Spain to back up the the origin of the Parcel, this is in line with the Anti Terrorist Campaign due to the Law Implemented by government of United States of America to protect and reduce the terrorist activities.

We kindly advice you to contact the agent in Madrid, Spain to get the Sworn Affidavit for you. Please note that the cost of the Sworn Affidavit costs only $158 which must paid by the receiver of the parcel. Below is the contact details of the agent in charge. He will advice you on how the payment should be made so please contact him immediately you receive this notification.

Name: Mr Aaron Winston
Tel:0034 639 032 542

We shall forward the card to you as soon as we receive the Duly Sworn Affidavit, we are doing this to secure your interest considering the credit card frauds and stolen cheque which brings problem to American citizens all around the world.

Your prompt response is most higly desired to terminate the delivering of your parcel.

Mr William R Gillian
Chief Postal Inspection Service.

The only hint of literacy difficulty here is some capitalizations and perhaps there should be a “the” in front of “government” (due to the Law Implemented by government of United States of America). Apart from that, spot on.

It was even sent from “”. Unfortunately, is the site of the United States Power Squadrons.

28 September 2010


This is the kind of ironic critique of common-sense that I love. Even though it’s a Mail on Sunday (!) blog. (I have mixed feelings about Peter Hitchins: interesting take on Russia and on “the West’s” approach to post-Soviet Russia; dubious take on the EU.).

As Ukrainians force Russians to turn their back on their language and change their names, I ask, is this the world’s most absurd city?

Imagine some future Brussels edict has finally broken up Britain and handed Devon and Cornwall over to rule by Wales.

Imagine the Royal Navy, much shrunk and renamed the English Navy, being told it has to share Plymouth with a new Welsh fleet; that is, if it is allowed to stay there at all.

Picture the scene as cinemas in Plymouth and Exeter are forced to dub all their films into Welsh, while schools teach anti-English history and children are pressed to learn Welsh.

Street signs are in Welsh. TV is in Welsh. Police cars patrolling Dartmoor have ‘Heddlu’ blazoned on them, banks have become ‘bancs’ and taxis ‘tacsis’.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall are cut off by a frontier from the rest of England, closing down industries with English links, and people are issued with new identity documents with Welsh names.

Utterly mad and unthinkable, you might say. And you would be right. But something very similar has happened in what used to be the Soviet Union, and we are supposed to think it is a good thing – because Russia is officially a bad country, and its former subject nations are therefore automatically good. […]

I think our treatment of Russia since the fall of communism has been almost unbelievably stupid and crude. We complain now about the autocratic rule of Vladimir Putin. But it was our greed and our bullying of the wounded bear that created Putin and his shady, corrupt state. […]

No, I am not an apologist for Comrade Putin. I like Russia, and wish it had a better government. I think it would have done if we had been more thoughtful after 1991. […]

This sublimely silly development meant that Russia’s main naval base [Sevastopol] was suddenly in a foreign country, and its inhabitants became aliens in their own land. It gets more ridiculous. On one side of the harbour, a fortress bears the slogan ‘Glory to the Russian navy!’ A strongpoint a mile away is adorned with a banner proclaiming ‘Glory to the Ukrainian navy!’

Sevastopol’s deputy mayor, Pyotr Kudryashov, knows all about this rivalry. By an accident of history, his son Sergei, 30, and his daughter Anna, 35, are both serving at sea as naval officers – but Anna is in a Russian ship, and Sergei is in a Ukrainian one.

Both wanted to join a navy, and each joined the one that was recruiting when they graduated. In theory, if the New Cold War ever turns hot, they could be firing missiles at each other.


…with thanks to Athol for keeping me up-to-date on media discourse on Russia!

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27 September 2010

Anthropological fieldwork

Thoughtful reflections on a range of readings on (and doings of) fieldwork in anthropology on the Anthropological Fieldwork blog. Could make interesting reading for linguistic ethnographers and ethnographic discourse analysts.

26 September 2010

Russland als Gaskammer

At least that’s how the Bild Zeitung translates “gas vault” into German! Bildblog reports.

25 September 2010

Curriculum Studies

Curriculum studies is probably one area of educational research which deals most explicitly with discourse, and with the whole range of associated issues of knowledge, power, subjectivation, hegemonic projects, critical whiteness, etc. Here a selective selection of sites, which is admittedly quite North American heavy:

American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies (AAACS) (association, journal, annual conference)

… is established to support a “worldwide” – but not “uniform” – field of curriculum studies. Our hope, in establishing this organization, is to provide organizational support for a rigorous and scholarly conversation within and across national and regional borders regarding the content, context, and process of education, the organizational and intellectual center of which is the curriculum.

Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies (CACS) (conference, SIGs)

… supports inquiries into and discussions of curricula that are of interest to Canadian educators. In context of CACS, the term “curriculum” is defined broadly as any complex structure, or set of structures, that supports learning and teaching.

JCTonline (home of Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice; Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (JCT); related to Foundation for Curriculum Theory)

JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the “reconceptualist” movement in curriculum theorizing, and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is associated with the “Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice,” held in the autumn of each year.

Curriculum and Pedagogy group (conference, journal, edited books)

… is a gathering of diverse individuals seeking academic enrichment, social action, and professional engagement; Our conference is an annual space where work can be shared, valued, and disseminated to a diverse audience committed to educational reform and social change. The conference creates democratic spaces to advance public moral leadership in education through dialogue and action. It is characterized by its commitment to classroom teachers, school administrators and curriculum workers and in providing a venue for under-represented groups.

The newly inaugurated Laboratory for Educational Theory in Stirling seems to be re-invigorating curriculum thinking in the UK. It held an international seminar called “Whatever Happened to Curriculum Theory…?” in collaboration with the journal Pedagogy, Culture and Society in January 2010.

Journal of Curriculum Studies

…publishes original refereed contributions on all aspects of curriculum studies (including those derived from historical, philosophical, comparative and policy-related investigations), pedagogic theory, teacher education and development, assessment and evaluation, and the present state of schooling. In keeping with its international character, Journal of Curriculum Studies especially welcomes articles which extend the perspectives of curriculum beyond national boundaries.

Curriculum Inquiry

…is dedicated to the study of educational research, development, evaluation, and theory. This leading international journal brings together influential academics and researchers from a variety of disciplines around the world to provide expert commentary and lively debate. Articles explore important ideas, issues, trends, and problems in education, and each issue also includes provocative and critically analytical editorials covering topics such as curriculum development, educational policy, and teacher education.

And with a somewhat different approach to curriculum, focussing more on effective leadership in education, and less of discursive issues, the following two associations:

Australian Curriculum Studies Association Inc (ACSA) (leadership, eNewsletter, publications)

…was established in 1983 as a broadly based educational association supporting the professional interests of educators in curriculum work from all levels and sectors within and beyond Australia.

ACSA works to support educators so that all students have access to a meaningful, relevant and engaging curriculum. ACSA provides national advocacy and leadership in curriculum. It is committed to curriculum reform informed by the principles of social justice and equity and respect for the democratic rights of all.

ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) (leadership, blog, effectiveness, publications)

… is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner. Our 160,000 members in 148 countries are professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members.

24 September 2010

Putin and gas

…searching for an image to accompany a paper I’ll be presenting soon on globalisation and subjectivation, and I came across this delightful street art:

Topic’s a bit old now – more gas troubles… but the picture’s still great. And it’s still about Putin, not Medvedev – even in the year 2010!

Image (c) Alexander Gorlin from flickr via cafe babel (jan 2010).

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22 September 2010

Cable, critique and capitalism

I suspected the LibDems were a radical choice. Vince Cable, Business Secretary in the UK, has re-introduced the word “capitalism” into public debate. The Guardian writes:

After some dubbed his comments on capitalism “Marxist”, Cable made delegates laugh by addressing them as “comrades”.

He acknowledged to activists that he had caused controversy with both this morning’s coverage and also with other measures he had taken in his four months as business secretary.

He said he had “managed to infuriate bank bosses, acquire a fatwa from the revolutionary guards of the trade unions movement; frighten the Daily Telegraph … and upset very rich people. I must be doing something right.” […]

“Why should good companies be destroyed by short-term investors looking for a speculative killing, while their accomplices in the City make fat fees? Capitalism takes no prisoners and it kills competition where it can, as Adam Smith explained over 200 years ago,” he said to applause.

David Green, in The Daily Telegraph (!), agrees.

…caricature by Christopher Ammentorp from

22 September 2010

initiative critical psychology

…an interesting blog for critical discursive psychologists:

initiative critical psychology.

and i found them through facebook…

17 September 2010

Immigrant ducks threaten Europe

I do wonder if this research finding would have been reported in quite this language if there wasn’t such legitimacy for anti-immigration discourse at the moment.

Meet Ruddy (pictured left), who accompanies the following BBC news story:

Leading experts on invasive species are demanding Europe-wide legislation be put in place by next year to tackle the threat to native wildlife.

The researchers want urgent action from the EU to protect Europe’s indigenous species from these “alien invaders”.

Invasive, non-native animals, plants and microorganisms cause at least 12 billion euros of damage in Europe each year.

The scientists are meeting at the Neobiota conference in Copenhagen.

They are demanding Europe-wide legislation to be in place by next year to ensure the threat doesn’t worsen.

Invasive species are defined as those that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a place where they are not normally found.

A European inventory in 2008 found more than 10,000 alien species in Europe, with 1,300 having some kind of impact. This impact was exerted either on the environment, economy or, on human health.

Am astounded at the articulations: invasive-threaten-native; protect-indigenous species-from-alien invaders (okay, yes, in scare quotes); invasive-non-native-cause-damage.

One could historicise this and wonder about the ‘alien species’ which Europeans brought to their ‘colonies’ which ‘had an impact’ on the environment, economy and human health (I’m thinking diseases which decimated indigeneous populations; American Indians; plants in Australia; opium wars in China…).

Not that I want to dispute the findings of the inventory. It just seems a peculiar way of framing the story.

9 September 2010

Surveys creating fear?

I’m on the search for “fissures” and ruptures in hegemonic formations at the moment – especially in the news media. And they’re not that difficult to find, for instance tonight at about 7.45pm on the RBB’s Abendschau (evening news on the regional tv for Berlin and Brandenburg). The news reader reported on a recent survey of what Berliners are afread of. Near the top, we have overburdened politicians and natural catastrophes.

Apparently 38 % are afraid of “tensions with foreigners”. (Again, I should recall that “foreigners” [Ausländer] refers in Germany to ethnic minorities or people with migration backgrounds, rather than, say, tourists.)

Watching this, the Berliner discoursologists started to gripe about surveys which include that sort of question, thereby suggesting to respondents that they should prioritize “tensions with foreigners” as one possible thing to fear.

But then, the newsreader moved on to the next question and made precisely the same point himself. A following story was about fatal accidents involving trams. The newsreaders lead into the story, linking it to the last one by saying:

We mentioned Berliners’ fears earlier. Maybe fear of the trams should have been included in the list. Because if we were afraid of them, then perhaps we would pay more attention to them and we here in the Abendschau wouldn’t have to report so often about tragic accidents.

(Von den Ängsten der Berliner war vorhin bei uns die Rede. Vielleicht sollte auf die Liste auch die Angst vor der Straßenbahn. Weil wenn wir Angst vor ihr hätten, dann würden wir vielleicht besser auf sie aufpassen und dann müssten wir in der Abendschau nicht immer wieder über tragische Unfälle berichten. [listen here)

So, meta-reflection on the constitutive function of survey questions which create fear. On RBB’s Abendschau. If that’s not a fissure in prevailing common-sense…