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Talking Politics 2023: Silences and Voices in Global Media

Learn from language experts as they tackle global political issues and demonstrate how they analyze political data in this award-winning online series. Register here.

About the Online Series

What role do media play in shaping global political landscapes? How do media affect who gets included, who gets excluded, and why? Why do some political issues receive attention while others do not?

Talking Politics 2023 brings together experts from the academy and beyond to share their distinctive analytic perspectives on political communication in the world today. Events in this online series focus on pressing current affairs and politics in a narrow sense — elections, political parties, and institutions — as well as in an expansive sense, examining social movements, covert media bias, and the cultural politics of representation.

Our experts will explore the political positions and acts of exclusion that shape global politics. They will also look beyond the media — or media industries — to consider a broader scope of medium and mediation that includes language as a key component, whether spoken, written, signed, recorded, or posted online.

First organized in 2020 by graduate students in the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology and the University of Colorado Boulder Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP), this interdisciplinary workshop series invites the public to experience and learn how language, and culture, and media shape real-world political communication. For its contribution to academia, Talking Politics was awarded the SLA Public Outreach and Community Service Award in 2021.

Talking Politics 2023 Sqaure
Talking Politics 2023 Sqaure

Series Format

Talking Politics 2023 comprises a series of webinars and roundtables by scholars, practitioners, and activists working across world regions, academic disciplines, and topics. Each Talking Politics event will feature demonstrations of the methods of analysis that experts use in studying political communication as well as their findings. Attendees will also be able to engage with presenters and other series participants through live Q&A.

Speaker Events:
*Note: All event times are listed in Central Standard Time.

April 21 (Friday), 4 pm CST
Talking Politics with Nicholas Mararac (Georgetown University)
Queering the military: How ideologies about gender and sexuality shape(d) the U.S. Armed Forces
Discussant: Kate Arnold-Murray (CU Boulder)

Opponents to social change in the military often say, “Keep politics out of the military.” However, the military is inherently political: mandated civilian oversight by the U.S. Congress has since World War I regulated who can serve and on what terms, and all language use is itself political—especially talk about what counts as politics at all. This webinar will explore the discourse of the politicization of the U.S. military through the regulation of gender identity and sexual expression.

May 5 (Friday), 4 pm CST
Roundtable: Transnational Language Politics, Old and New
Featuring: Jessica S. Chandras (University of North Florida), Jaime Pérez González (UC Santa Barbara), Martina Volfolvá (University of British Columbia), and Keisha Wiel (Temple University)
Discussant: Molly Hamm-Rodríguez (CU Boulder)

What is a mother tongue? What is an indigenous language? Who uses them, who defines them, and who gets included or excluded when their boundaries change? These categories might seem self-evident, but they’re backed by decades – even centuries – of political confusion, contestation, advocacy, activism, study, and institutionalization, both national and transnational. This roundtable’s participants will share how “mother tongue(s)” and “indigenous language(s)” appear across their research, advocacy, and revitalization work, and discuss what is made possible or impossible through these large-scale categories.

May 19 (Friday), 11 am CST
Talking Politics with Joshua Babcock (University of Chicago) and Ilana Gershon (Rice University)
How Does the State Ignore? The Contested Case of U.S. School Boards, from the Screen to the Meeting Hall
Discussant: Sarah Adams (CU Boulder)

With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, public commentary at U.S. school board meetings became an important ideological battleground for citizens to air their dissatisfactions to the state. Entertainment media like SNL reflected this dissatisfaction, crafting comedic fantasies of shutting down the voices of undesirable others. Yet it turns out that the state got there first. This webinar doesn’t focus on arguments for or against specific policies. Instead, we ask: how does the state work to ignore (potentially) everyone? What effect does this have on speech in democratic contexts? And how do citizens understand democratic utterances that seem to revolve around voice without uptake?

May 26 (Friday), 11 am CST
Roundtable: Afterlives of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, Beyond Tankie
Featuring: Taras Fedirko (University of Glasgow), Jessica Greenberg (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Yukun Zeng (UChicago), and Sarah Muir (The City of University of New York)
Discussant: Yukun Zeng (UChicago)

What do “left” and “right” mean today? As words, how are “left” and “right” used, and toward what political ends? How can we think about politics beyond the left–right binary? And just what (or who) is a “tankie”? In the final Talking Politics roundtable, our experts share examples of how the left–right paradigm has appeared during their research, and how it organizes politics in different contexts around the world.

Talking Politics is proudly co-sponsored by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA), the Center for the Study of Communication and Society (CSCS) and Linguistic Anthropology Lab at the University of Chicago, and the Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Organizing Committee

Wee Yang Soh (Lead Organizer, UChicago)
Maureen Kosse (Lead Organizer, CU Boulder)
Joshua Babcock (Lead Organizer, UChicago)
Molly Hamm-Rodríguez (CU Boulder)
Jacob Henry (CU Boulder)
Kate Arnold-Murray (CU Boulder)
Rebecca Lee (CU Boulder)
Roberto Young (UT Austin)
Sarah Adams (CU Boulder)
Yukun Zeng (UChicago)

For more information on the Talking Politics online forum, please contact Wee Yang Soh at, or Maureen Kosse at Persons with disabilities who require an accommodation in order to fully participate in this event should contact Maureen Kosse at