How different are we from those we hate?
Political and ideological conflicts are typically justified by various discourses. This talk examines two discourses: (1) the discourse underlying the violence and bloodshed by or under the name of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and (2) the discourse of arrogance and rage starting to be clearly visible in American politics and media. My argument is that, although they seem to be moving in opposite directions, these two types of discourses have much in common. While they invoke cries of victimization, ironically, both try to dehumanize and demonize the other to justify retaliatory acts against it. I will argue that the spread of these discourses not only creates an identity crisis for many who are directly or indirectly affected by this conflict, but also seem to be creating a historical narrative in process that may affect many generations to come. My message is that we need to encourage and be involved in alternative types of discourse that move away from these two poles and their grim picture of the world and present a more constructive platform for increasing understanding, justice, and peace.
Abdulkafi Albirini was born and raised in Syria, where he completed his pre-college education, obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and received several academic awards and distinctions.
He came to the United States in 2001 to complete his graduate education and obtained two doctoral degrees, one in the technologies of instruction and media and another in Linguistics. He is currently an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Arabic at Utah State University. For the past ten years or so, he has been studying the relationship between language and cognition, language and society, and language and history. A main focus of his research is the role of language in social interactions, relations, structures, and change. In his 2015 book Modern Arabic Sociolinguistics, he examines how language is mobilized in conflict situations to mark divergent national, ethnic, and religious identities. He also analyzes the power of discourse and counter-discourse in defining or challenging social classifications and realities. He spends most of his time reading, writing, and working on the computer. When he is not doing so, he likes to spend his time with his family, work in the garden, or play different sports especially soccer and swimming. He participated in a few PlayStation soccer tournaments, competing with his three young children. He recorded the biggest score in World Cup finals by beating his 6-year-old son 17-0.