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Title:Discursive (in)stability: Moral subjectivities and global hierarchies in transnational migrant women’s narratives
Author(s):Catedral, Lydia Hwa Che Medill
Director of Research:Bhatt, Rakesh
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bhatt, Rakesh
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Koven, Michèle; Terkourafi, Marina; Liu, Morgan
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
discourse analysis
transnational migration
language and identity
national identity
language ideologies
language and morality
social imaginary
discourse and agency
Central Asia
Abstract:My dissertation considers the role of discourse in transnational migrants’ construction of moral and national identities for themselves, focusing on the case of women from Uzbekistan living in the United States. While research has highlighted how transnational movement destabilizes identity and communicative practice, I focus on the ways in which migrant women use discursive moves to (re)organize their social imaginary and to claim stability for themselves. I demonstrate that although migrants occupy a tenuous position in relation to the gendered and moral images of “ideal citizenship” promoted by both their country of residence and their country of origin, they continue to claim national morality and belonging for themselves – albeit often through language that reifies the same national ideologies that exclude them. As a secondary focus of this dissertation, I investigate the impact of the discursive (re)organization of the social imaginary on migrant bilingualism. I show how migrants at times represent their different bilingual and cross-cultural communicative competencies as operating in discrete and opposing social spheres, while at other times they represent these competencies as more hybrid and overlapping across the transnational contexts in which they reside. This work is ethnographic and my data come from participant observation at Uzbek American community events, the collection of public discourses and images circulating via Uzbek cultural groups on social media, and 47 hours of audio recordings of semi-structured interviews and casual conversations between Uzbek women living in the United States. Across these different contexts, I examine the use of evaluative language, voicing, deictics, various narrative structures, and code-switching between Uzbek, Russian and English to show how these women discursively (re)imagine the relationships between time-space configurations, national images of citizenship, moral norms for behavior, categories of immigrants, and their own migration trajectories and identities. In chapter 5, I demonstrate how the discursive construction of gendered images of citizenship and their relation to linguistic competence allows participants to claim belonging for themselves and others – in relation to both Uzbekistan and to Uzbek communities abroad. In chapter 6, I show how these women use linguistic practices to designate different scopes of generalizability, i.e. scale, to moral norms for speech associated with the U.S. and Uzbekistan, respectively, in order to bring coherence to their personal narratives and moral justification to their linguistic behaviors. In chapter 7, I show how the women I spoke with engage multilingual practices in order to rebrand themselves as more compatible with images of citizenship in both Uzbekistan and the United States, while differentiating themselves from the semiotics of “dangerous Islam.” In addition to describing the linguistic situation of an understudied community, this work informs a sociolinguistics of globalization through its attention to the polycentric nature of moral demands on the discursive representation of individual subjectivity, and the discursive strategies used to resist misrecognition as one moves across national boundaries. Further, by emphasizing the agentive potential of discursive (re)imagination for claiming national belonging, while also being attentive to how this imagination is constrained by and reinforces national ideologies of exclusion, this work engages with larger questions about the limits and possibilities of discursive action for reconfiguring social life. With respect to bilingualism, this dissertation examines the discursive links between multiple languages and national spheres that are both created and erased by migrants in order to show how debates about language hybridity vs. language discreteness might be informed by an understanding of the hybridity vs. discreteness of images of citizenship and their various component parts. Finally, this work is timely in addressing the experiences of Muslim migrant women, given the widespread misinformation about these communities in contemporary political discourse, particularly in the United States.
Issue Date:2018-07-05
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Lydia Catedral
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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