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Dates and Times

14 March 2023
11:00 - 12:00


Building: 24
Room: Fishbowl


Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance


Matteo Bonotti

CDDGG Seminar Series - Matteo Bonotti

Linguistic prejudice and electoral discrimination: What can political theory learn from sociolinguistics?

Normative political theorists working in the field of linguistic justice generally believe that participation in democratic life in linguistically diverse societies requires a shared lingua franca (e.g. Patten 2009; Van Parijs, 2011). However, even when a shared lingua franca is present, there is likely to be a variety of ways in which people speak it, due to variations in accent, pitch, register, lexicon, etc. This is especially (though not solely) the case for those with a migrant background. In this paper, we examine the implications of intra-linguistic diversity for democracy and political representation. More specifically, by drawing on Andrew Rehfeld’s (2010) work and on relevant sociolinguistics research, we argue that widespread unconscious linguistic prejudice constitutes an informal structural constraint on some citizens’ right to run for political office. We conclude by applying our analysis to a number of examples concerning Australian politicians.

This paper is co-authored with Louisa Willoughby, Monash University.

About the speaker

Matteo Bonotti is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include democratic theory, political liberalism and public reason, linguistic justice, free speech, food justice, and the normative dimensions of partisanship. His work has appeared in such journals as the American Political Science Review, The Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, and Political Studies. He is the author of Partisanship and Political Liberalism in Diverse Societies (Oxford University Press 2017), the co-author of Healthy Eating Politics and Political Philosophy: A Public Reason Approach (Oxford University Press 2021) and Recovering Civility during COVID-19 (Palgrave Macmillan 2021), and the co-editor of A Century of Compulsory Voting in Australia: Genesis, Impact and Future (Palgrave Macmillan 2021).

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