Panel 10 | Intersecting Inequalities: Towards a Critical Discursive Approach

CADAAD2022 | 06-08/07/2022 | Bergamo, Italy

27 | Jai Mackenzie

'How I overcame my feelings of shame': Single motherhood at the intersection of gender, sexuality, age and class

This presentation explores the intersectional dimensions of a discourse of ‘problematic single motherhood’. Drawing on digital and interview data from my research with nine UK parents who are single and/or LGB (lesbian, gay or bisexual), I present a case study that focuses on Rachael, a heterosexual single woman who used IVF and donor conception to bring a child into her life. Looking at Rachael’s Instagram and interview data in tandem, I consider how she draws on, negotiates and reworks this discourse of ‘problematic single motherhood’ in different domains. Tactics of intersubjectivity (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005), especially the overlapping strategies of distinction, authorisation and illegitimation, are shown to be particularly salient in this process, as she works to legitimise her route to motherhood by distancing herself from widely stigmatised positions such as young motherhood, working-class motherhood and unplanned motherhood. I argue that, whilst Rachael’s intersubjective positioning serves to protect her against stigma and discrimination, it often relies on the reproduction of an intersecting web of discriminatory discourses, which feed into idealised constructions of mothers as responsible, middle-class, and appropriately aged citizens. In conclusion, the analysis suggests that it can be extremely difficult for single women to challenge the multiple and intersecting discriminatory discourses, ideals and stereotypes that converge in exclusionary and limiting constructions of single motherhood, whilst maintaining a recognisably legitimate social position for themselves.


Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5), 585-614.

28 | David Garcia Leon & Javier Garcia Leon

Transness and Disability in Colombia. An Intersectional Exploration of the Discursive Construction of Access to Healthcare in the Press (2000-2019)

Transgender people in Colombia face stigma-related barriers within the Colombian healthcare system. Trans people are not alone facing these obstacles. Disabled individuals also encounter burdens when accessing health services in the country. Inspired by this situation, our paper examines the discursive construction of access to the health care system by transgender and disabled people in Colombia through an intersectional approach. We explored a corpus of the Colombian quality press (2000-2019) where access to healthcare by these two social actors is depicted. Articles were chosen based on two main criteria: firstly, the articles were published by El Tiempo (Colombia’s most widely read newspaper); secondly, the articles specifically addressed trans and disabled people accessing healthcare services in Colombia. All articles, 25 in total, were manually checked to ensure the relation to the topic of access to healthcare. The data for this exploratory qualitative study is part of a larger project on the representation of trans and disabled people in Colombian media.

By using an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach that combines Queer Linguistics (Motschenbacher & Stegu 2013; García León 2021; Zottola 2018), Disability Studies (Erevelles 2011; Mitchell & Snyder 2015), and Crip Theory (McRuer 2014; Puar 2017) with Critical Discourse Analysis (Grue 2015; Wodak 2006), we seek to answer two research questions: how is access to healthcare by trans and disabled people represented in news articles? and to what extent do these articles sustain or transform the current representation of these communities in the Colombian press? From the qualitative analysis, we found five major discursive strategies used to represent both social actors. The findings show that Colombian media relies on spectacular and porn inspirational figures that conceal the role of the Neoliberal State in debilitating the lives of trans and disable individuals.

The presentation begins by characterizing the current healthcare system of Colombia. Secondly, it explores the representation of access to healthcare by trans and disabled people in the quality press. The presentation closes by reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on both communities. In a nutshell, this study sheds light on how the Colombian digital press has portrayed this issue, as it has been underexplored from an intersectional approach, and contributes to the intersection between transness, dis/ability, and media representation in Latin America.


-Erevelles, Nirmala. 2011. Disability and Difference in Global Contexts Enabling a Transformative Body Politic. New York: Palgrave.

-García León. Javier E. (2021). Espectáculo, normalización y representaciones otras. Las personas transgénero en la prensa y el cine de Colombia y Venezuela. Berlin: Peter Lang.

-Grue, Jan. 2015. Disability and Discourse Studies. Farnhan: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

-McRuer, Robert. 2014. Crip Times. Disability, Globalization, and Resistance. New York: New York UP.

-Mitchell, David. T, and Sharon L. Snyder. 2015. The Biopolitics of Disability: Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP.

-Motschenbacher, Heiko & Martin Stegu. 2013. Queer Linguistic Approaches to Discourse. D&S 24(5): 519–535.

-Puar, Jasbir. K. 2017. The Right to Maim. Debility, Capacity, Disability. Durham: Duke UP.

-Wodak, Ruth. 2006. “Critical Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis.” In Handbook of Pragmatics, edited by Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola. Östman, and Jan Blommaert, 1–24. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

-Zottola, Angela. 2018. Transgender identity labels in the British press. A corpus-based discourse analysis. JLS 7(2):237-262."

49 | Marianne Barker

New Ways of Researching Canadian Immigrants’ Social Integration: A Framework for Combining Intersectionality and Critical Discourse Analysis

While over a fifth of Canada’s population is comprised of immigrants (Statistics Canada, 2017) and Canada declares itself “a world leader in managed migration” (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada [IRCC], 2018, p. 5), the on-the-ground experiences of immigrants often contradict the nation’s accolades. Immigrants report feeling lonely and isolated (Kiwarra, 2019), with high numbers experiencing discrimination (Godley, 2018). This disconnect between micro and macro levels is partly because settlement policies tend to homogenize immigrants, presuming their barriers are related to difficulties with language and finding employment (Li, 2003). For this reason, settlement efforts broadly target economic and linguistic avenues of integration, rather than the wide range of distinct social needs of diverse immigrants (Fleming, 2010; Guo, 2009, 2013). Additionally, Canadian immigrants’ identities are discursively constructed through the promotion of a national identity built on multiculturalism and tolerance of diversity (Haque, 2012). These discourses are pervasive in institutions and media, positioning immigrants as ‘lucky and grateful’ while denying them full rights as Canadian citizens and simultaneously constructing a positive image of Canada as a benevolent welcoming nation (Thobani, 2013). So far, approaches to researching this ‘dark side’ of immigrants’ integration and discrimination have tended towards quantitative approaches that do not adequately capture the depth and diversity of newcomer experiences. As immigrants with diverse backgrounds and trajectories continue to arrive in Canada in increasing numbers (IRCC, 2020), there is an urgent need to find new ways to examine their diverse and unique experiences through a lens that attends to power, positioning, and discourse.

I propose that research aimed at improving the social integration experiences of immigrants needs to take a dual focused qualitative methodological approach, combining Intersectionality and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Both frameworks share the goal of exposing and removing barriers in social structures that limit opportunities for individuals and groups who are marginalized (Fairclough, 2015; Davis, 2008). Despite their potential symbiosis, intersectionality and CDA have not commonly been used together in research on immigrants’ integration. To address this gap, my research framework holds that an intersectional lens can center immigrant perspectives on how discourses are perpetuated, participated in, or resisted, and how discourses impact social integration. To that end, my research questions are: What iterations of CDA and Intersectionality are compatible (or not) for a combined framework to research immigrants’ social integration? What tools of inquiry (methods) are suitable for this combined framework?

My theoretical position will be outlined as follows: First, I will introduce the context of Canadian immigrants’ social integration. Second, I will make the claim that intersectionality is an indispensable (though often overlooked) framework for research on immigration and integration because it resists the homogenization of individuals and advocates for equitable policy for those who are marginalized and invisibilized (Christensen, 2009; Verloo, 2006). Next, I will identify how various schools Critical Discourse Analysis (Foucauldian, the Discourse Historical Approach, Fairclough’s textually-oriented CDA, Van Leeuwen’s Social Semiotic approach, and van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach) align with intersectionality and are suitable for exploring immigration and integration. I will also identify tensions between certain iterations of CDA and intersectionality. Based on this synthesis of the literature, I will propose an original integrated framework for research aimed at improving immigrants’ integration in contexts including settlement services and programming for newcomers. The framework uses intersectionality to center immigrant perspectives and experiences, and uses CDA to explore contextual ways that immigrants are discursively represented and positioned. Finally, I will recommend specific approaches and methods that can be used within this framework.

51 | Carolina Pérez-Arredondo

An intersectional approach to the discursive construction of identity in multicultural educational contexts: The case of the Haitian community in the public school system in Chile.

In Chile, Haitians correspond to the third largest immigrant community (INE, 2020, 12 March) and it is one of the most discriminated in terms of their race, culture, language, and socio-economic status. At schools, Haitian children face many obstacles to learn Spanish as a second language while they are simultaneously expected to learn English as a foreign language (henceforth EFL). Chile is adamant in becoming a bilingual country to expand its political and economic opportunities (Matear, 2008), favouring a utilitarian narrative around English. This commodification creates a language valuation system in which English is ranked higher than Spanish and other languages/regional varieties immigrant and/or heritage students might speak in the classroom or in their private sphere (Rodríguez-Izquierdo et al., 2020). In this context, this study analyses how Haitian students’ identities are constructed, negotiated, and resignified by their parents and EFL teachers to unveil their attitudes and perceptions of their learning processes and linguistic development in multicultural contexts. To this end, six schools across the Metropolitan region were recruited, which concentrated the largest number of fifth-grade Haitian students in their own cities (which is when English becomes mandatory in the public system). 6 EFL teachers and 9 Haitian parents were interviewed to explore how they construct, negotiate and resignify their discourses in terms of the identity attributed to these students based on their own understanding and perceptions of their reality. Following Reisigl and Wodak’s Discourse-Historical Approach (2016; Wodak et al., 2009), I explore how issues of gender, race, and class play a crucial role in how these actors understand the experience of these students at school and in the country more generally. Results evidence that, along with a tendency towards cultural and linguistic assimilation, both parents and teachers legitimize their own misconceptions about these students through fallacies, framing and legitimation strategies (van Leeuwen, 2008). Finally, while these parents and teachers believe the precariousness of their schools and their living conditions enhanced by the pandemic are detrimental to their children/students’ learning process, the analysis also shows that stereotypes about their culture, abilities, and the gender roles there are expected to fulfil (in the case of Haitian parents) determine how these students interact in their own multicultural contexts.


INE (2020, 12 Marzo). Según estimaciones, la cantidad de personas extranjeras residentes habituales en Chile bordea los 1,5 millones al 31 de diciembre de 2019. INE.

Matear, A. (2008). English language learning and education policy in Chile: Can English really open doors for all? Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 28(2), 131–147. doi:

Reisigl, M. & Wodak, R. (2016). The discourse-historical approach. En R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of Critical Discourse Studies (pp. 23-61). Sage.

Rodríguez-Izquierdo, R., González Falcón, I. & Goenechea Permisán, C. (2020). Teacher beliefs and approaches to linguistic diversity. Spanish as a second language in the inclusion of immigrant students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 90, 1-11.

Wodak, R., de Cillia, R., Reisigl, M. & Liebhart, K. (2009). The discursive construction of national identity (2nd ed.). Edinburgh University Press.

van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and practice: New tools for critical discourse analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

57 | Federico Sabatini

“A long and difficult bimose”: Colonizing and De-colonizing Two-Spirit Language and Identity.

My paper focuses on language, culture and gender in the light of two-spirit people, namely those Native Americans who were considered gifted because they had both male and female characteristics in their soul. Indeed, children were raised genderless and were free to follow their masculine or feminine identity. Colonization then forced two-spirits into a hetero-patriarchal system, as western cultures brought serious prejudice against “gender diversity” (Sabatini 2016) resulting in persecution, suicide, social maladjustment.

Anthropologists, moreover, vibrantly debated on how to call those people. At first, researchers called them “berdache” or “alternative gender”, trying to make sense of the indigenous terms used in the various tribes. All the western definitions, including “homosexual”, proved insufficient or distorted: the pejorative “berdache”, for example, first meant a “catamite” (the younger partner in an age-differentiated homosexual relationship) and then became a general term for male homosexual. On the contrary, two-spirit people did not comply to western categories, nor could be “simply” considered homosexuals or bisexuals. From the 90s, researchers (e.g. Epple 1997; Driskill 2004; Walters 2006; O’Higgins 2015) offered alternative definitions: either the neutral “two-spirit” or the original terms. Notably, the Navajo would refer to two spirits as “Nádleehí” (“the one is constantly changing), while the Lakota used “Winkté” (a male who behaves as a female), or “Niizh Manidoowag” (two spirit united). In order to understand the nuances of the concept, though, one has to refer to the ur-concept of “Sa'ah Naaghaf Bik'eh HozhM” which means "the natural order” that “organizes everything as male and female in an interconnected cycle” (Epple 1997).

My study will thus reflect on the western artificiality of gendered language, showing, moreover, how “other” cultures have divergent views, often more integrated and fluid. All these topics that question western thought, intersectional discriminations, and linguistic stigmatization will be analysed in several authentic texts by contemporary two-spirits, notably poet Chrystos, writer Ma-Nee Chacaby and blogger “âpihtawikosisân” (aka Chelsea Vowel). Using cognitive linguistic theories on affect/emotion and cognitive narratology (e.g Hermann, 2007), I will especially analyse 1) their use of pronouns; 2) their mixture of orality and written forms; 3) their prolific use of code mixing meant to reclaim and de-colonize their mother tongue (“Reclaiming our traditions is more than learning our languages, but our languages do give us a ‘way in’, Vowel). In her recent autobiography, for example, Chacaby recounts her childhood relationship with her grandmother and continuously mixes English, Ojibwa-Cree language and calques even when the words are translatable (e.g. “Little girl, you have niizhin ojijaak (two spirits) living inside of you [and you’ll have to face] a long and difficult bimose (walk or journey)” (2016). With similar intentions and yet with a different outcome, Chrystos not only refuses the building codes of western punctuation but also refers to herself with the plural pronoun “they” by inflecting the verb in the singular form (“they has”), so as to underline not only a gender-fluid identity but also the impossibility of English language to recreate their experience and identity. As an act that could be called “linguistic defiance” against intersectional discrimination, all these writers, bloggers and activists fight to preserve their mother tongue from what colonization, in lacanian terms, transformed into a (m)Other tongue.

65 | Angela Zottola & Eleonora Esposito

Intersecting Hostilities around the European Migration Crisis: The Case of Carola Rackete and the Sea-Watch 3

On June 29, 2019, the captain Carola Rackete docked the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in defiance of a ban imposed by Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The 42 migrants rescued by the Sea-Watch 3 had been blocked at sea for the previous two weeks, sparking international headlines and a heated debate around sovereignty and humanitarianism in the face of the European migration crisis. Lauded as a heroine as well as decried as a criminal, 31-year-old German captain Carola Rackete was arrested on her arrival and probed for refusing to obey a military vessel and aiding illegal immigration.

This paper investigates online discourses around the Sea-Watch 3 docking, to be regarded as a critical incident, “a ‘trigger’ or galvanizing event” (Williams & Burnap 2015) capable to catalyse attention on news outlets internationally and generate a considerable response on social media platform. To explore the reaction to this event by both the news and social media, a multimodal corpus of Twitter data and international news is analysed by means of a Social Media Critical Discourse Studies approach (SM-CDS) (KhosraviNik 2017; KhosraviNik and Esposito 2018).

Results show how the Sea-Watch 3 docking was accompanied by a high proliferation of misogynous user-generated content and gender-based harassment against Captain Rackete, at the intersection with right-wing populist discourses of Italian sovranism embodied by Matteo Salvini and Lega Nord supporters as well as with the growing exclusionary and racist attitudes against refugees and migrants across Europe. At the same time, international voices of solidarity with Rackete and pro-migration, humanitarian ‘hashtag activism’ also emerged, yielding a complex and multivocal online debate on the current Italian and European migration crisis.


Williams, M. L., & Burnap, P. 2015. Cyberhate on social media in the aftermath of Woolwich: A case study in computational criminology and big data. British Journal of Criminology, 56(2), 211-238.

KhosraviNik, M. 2017. Social Media Critical Discourse Studies (SM‐CDS). In John Flowerdew & John E. Richardson (eds.), Handbook of Critical Discourse Analysis, 583–596. London: Routledge.

KhosraviNik, M. & Esposito, E. 2018. Online hate, digital discourse and critique: Exploring digitally-mediated discursive practices of gender-based hostility. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 14 (1): 45-68.

89 | Tasneem Plato, Lauren Mongie, & Marcelyn Oostendorp

At the intersections of lived experience and societal discourses: The linguistic repertoires of Gay, Coloured men in South Africa

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Intersectionality have much in common. Inequality and power are central to both fields. Despite these similarities, there are also differences, the main one being that CDA pays closer attention to language. Secondly, although CDA have addressed inequality, it has mostly focused on social categories associated with inequality in isolation like migration status, race, or gender, while intersectionality is concerned with particular categories, “not as unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but as reciprocally constructing phenomena that in turn shape complex social inequalities” (Collins 2015:2). Both approaches to inequality have a commitment to action which create more equitable lives, but while Intersectionality’s activist routes are firmly established, CDA “risks producing a view from above rather than from below” (Blommaert 2005:33). In this article, we use CDA and Intersectionality as theoretical framing to understand the role of language in constituting and resisting inequality.

We used language portraits, a multimodal form of data elicitation that gives insights into languages of desire, language ideologies and emotional affinities to language (Busch 2012, 2021) to investigate the ways of speaking of South African men who self-identify as Coloured and Gay. ‘Coloured’ is an apartheid racial classification referring to people who could not be classified as “native” or white and is still used in official government discourses for redress purposes and by many as a self-assigned identity marker. Following Blommaert (2005) we draw extensively on theoretical and methodological tools developed in interactional sociolinguistics, and view inequality as a question of ‘voice’. Blommaert (2005) argues that critical approaches to discourse that leans more extensively on sociolinguistics shares a commitment to criticality (with CDA) while focusing more on how power is deflated or created in micro interactions. Our findings show that standard varieties of Afrikaans and English are used to project images of professionalism and intellect while non-standard and marginalized varieties like Kaaps (a non-standard, stigmatized variety of Afrikaans associated with Coloured speakers) and Gayle (a South African Lavender language) are seen as a celebration of racial and sexual identity and resistance against dominant ideologies of race and sexuality. However, English is also associated with inauthenticity and Kaaps and Gayle with shame and pain. In the participants’ description, no one ideology of the varieties that they use are dominant, instead “intersecting systems of power catalyze social formations of complex social inequalities that are organized via unequal material realities and distinctive social experiences” (Collins 2015:14). Our findings also suggest that it is “precisely in breaking down the old idea that a chunk of discourse has only one function and one meaning that the critical dimension may prove to reside” (Blommaert 2005:34). These insights from intersectionality and sociolinguistic approaches to discourse are crucial to understand how those who straddle multiple forms of inequality create voice, the conditions under which voice is constrained, and how micro interactions reflect, construct and contest broader societal discourses.


Blommaert, J. (2005). Discourse: A critical introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Busch, B. (2012). The linguistic repertoire revisited. Applied linguistics, 33(5), 503-523.

Busch, B. (2021). The body image: taking an evaluative stance towards semiotic resources. International Journal of Multilingualism, 1-16.

Collins, P. H. (2015). Intersectionality's definitional dilemmas. Annual review of sociology, 41, 1-20.