LingLunch : Heather Burnett

Thursday 16 February 2023, 12:00 to 13:00
Karen De Clercq et Ira Noveck (LLF)

LLF – Bât. ODG – 5e étage – Salle du conseil (533)

Heather Burnett (LLF)
Using Conceptual Spaces to Understand the Meanings of Political Identity Labels

This paper presents a new method for investigating the meanings of political identity labels (left wing, right wing, liberal, progressive, conservative, etc.), focussing particularly what is called their "symbolic aspects" in the political science literature (Zechmeister 2006, Zechmeister & Corral 2013, Vegetti & Širinić 2019, among others), and their "social meanings" in the sociolinguistics and semantics literatures (see Beltrama 2020 for a review). We argue that the Conceptual Spaces Framework (CSF, Gärdenfors 2004, 2014), an influential framework for analyzing perceptual conceptual domains, can fruitfully be applied to socio-political domains to yield formal models of the social meanings of political identity labels both as they are used by speakers in self-identification and to categorize others. Our main empirical focus is feminist political identity terms ("radical", "materialist", "queer", "intersectional", "decolonial", etc.). We present a new empirical categorization study with 81 feminist activists and scholars in France, and show how to build conceptual spaces for this complicated socio-political domain. We argue that our results provide a new understanding of what French feminists mean when they identify as a "materialist" or "queer" or "intersectional" feminist, and paint a new picture of how feminism in France is structured in the minds of those who participate in it.