Special Issue 85/2020 – Abstracts


Prekaritätserfahrungen: Soziolinguistische Perspektiven

edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher, Jonas Hassemer, Christian Bendl und Jürgen Spitzmüller


The special issue 85/2020 of the WLG is available either as a complete issue (PDF) or as individual contributions (see below). 

Prekaritätserfahrungen. Einleitung in das Themenheft

Jürgen Spitzmüller/Christian Bendl

In this introductory article, we will outline the general aims and attempts of the special issue at hand. We will introduce the central concepts, precarity and precariousness - or, for that matter, perceptions and constructions of those states -, and we will contextualize these concepts in relation to a range of other concepts with diverse disciplinary background, namely crisis, liminality, and ambivalence. We will unfold an interactional, metapragmatic notion of precarity perceptions and constructions as 'social positioning on slippery ground'. Finally, the contributions to this special issue will be briefly introduced. 

Keywords: Ambivalenz, Krise, Liminalität, Prekarität, Prekärsein, soziale Positionierung


Prekarität und Place-Identity. Wie Erwerbslose in ihren Gesprächen soziale Unsicherheit konstruieren und Agency kommunikativ aushandeln

Pamela Steen

This paper deals with the term precarity as a dynamic concept that emerges through linguistic interactions. Applying linguistic conversation analysis to everyday talk, I will show which verbal methods unemployed men use to construct their (stigmatised) identity in relation to a specific public place. They construct themselves 1. as communication objects without inter-pretive power and agency, 2. as restricted and involuntarily addressable in communication with the city administration and the police, with regard to the public place where they meet, and 3. as subjects equipped with agency in a (fictional) communication that is uncertain for others. Precarity here is a synonym for social uncertainty and the experience of status turbulences resulting from criteria relevant to the individual or respective social group.

Keywords: Erwerbslose, Gesprächsanalyse, Imagestigmatisierung, Prekarität, Positionierung


Prekarität im Gespräch

Ina Pick

This article examines conversations in organizations for homeless assis­tance in Germany in which social workers discuss precarious living situations with their clients. The analyses show that (most of) the conversations about such precarious social situations are precarious themselves. Precarious social situations and precarious conver­sations are comparable: In each case, precarity is understood as a constel­lation in which two contradictory reference orientations apply simultaneously (socially constructed normality and clients’ actual normality). Precarity in conver­sations results from the participants communicatively establishing diffe­rent reference points for normality. Findings are that coping strategies for precarious situations can also be observed as communicative strategies in conver­sations. However, the same clients show diffe­rent strategies to deal with either social or communicative precarity. In general, such research helps improve our understanding of precarity and its effects on social (inter)action.

Schlüsselwörter: Prekarität, Wohnungslosenhilfe, Gesprächslinguistik, Handlungskonstellation, kommunikative Praktiken



Gehört werden. Sprachrepertoire und Spracherleben im Zeichen von Prekarität

Brigitta Busch

The article aims to identify how precarity and social exclusion can be experienced as a traumatic loss of voice. It is based on a transdisciplinary research project on traumatic experience, multilingualism, and resilience and presents the case study of a woman, who lived as an undocumented migrant in Austria for many years. The paper begins by reflecting on social exclusion and theoretical perspectives about trauma in the context of displacement, precarity, voice, and the loss of voice. The results are discussed in terms of the bodily-emotional dimension of language, the experience of isolation, fear and anger, the re-invocation of former experiences and the use of language resources that contribute to strengthen resilience.

Keywords: Sprachrepertoire, Spracherleben, soziale Exklusion, Stimme, Stimmlosigkeit


Ungewissheit während des Asylverfahrens. Agencykonstruktionen zwischen struktureller Verunsicherung und subjektiver Wahrheit

Sabine Lehner

Asylum seekers often struggle with various insecurities and uncertainties, given the indeterminate duration and outcome of the asylum proceedings. The legal status of a person (e.g., asylum seeker, recognized refugee) regu­lates their agency and possibilities for participation. In the case of Austria, the temporary legal status of asylum seekers implies various restrictions and precarious living conditions. This contribution explores this dimension of uncertainty and the construction of agency of asylum seekers in Austria. On the basis of interviews with asylum seekers in Vienna, I investigate how interviewees construct themselves as agents and how they position them­selves towards their current living conditions and their uncertain legal status. The contribution shows that the interviewed asylum seekers face similar constraints and uncertainties, share similar expe­riences (i.e., waiting), and position themselves in similar ways. The paper presents the interviewees’ complex positioning strategies, including strategies of resistance and distancing from structural constraints and dominant discourses.

Schlüsselwörter: Ungewissheit, Asylverfahren, Agency, Positionierung, Prekarität, Warten


Prekäre Ethnographie. Zur Rolle von Prekaritätserfahrungen im ethnographischen Erkenntnisprozess

Jonas Hassemer/Mi-Cha Flubacher

Along with recent scholarship, we hold that ethnography is a reflexive endeavour and a liminal activity. It has been a basic tenet in ethnography that knowledge is produced in reflexive engagement not only with the research context but also with researcher’s experiences thereof. Liminality describes ambivalent roles, shifting contexts, and it also critically challenges dichotomous categories that structure academic knowledge production. This paper aims to deepen this argument by engaging with phenomena of precariousness and precarity in fieldwork rapport, moments of symbolic and material interdependency and vulnerability. Thereby, we do not only look into the existential fragility of ethnographic research, but we also highlight the resourcefulness of such phenomena – in terms of ethics but also in terms of understanding the research object. In this sense, we argue that ethnography is, besides being reflexive and liminal, a precarious practice. By precarious ethnography we thus refer to the resourceful yet dependent nature of contact at the heart of ethnography.

Keywords: Ethnographie, Prekarität, Liminalität, Reflexivität, Rapport


Die Prekarität der Anderen

Anne Storch

Discourses of uncertainty and ambivalence are analysed in this contribution as being peculiar for the ways in which Otherness is constructed: it is always the Other, and not the Self, who is precarious and undergoing status change. In an utterly contradictory setting that frequently involves carnivalesque performances of inversion, the Other is integrated in these performances in order to negate the potential precariousness of the Self. The fragile status of party tourists on the Spanish island of Mallorca and the attempts of West African migrants, who in various ways cater for the needs of the tourists, to establish themselves as immigrants, are explored in terms of the discursive resonances they produce as well as in terms of cultural mobility and social dynamics.

Keywords: Tourismus, Mehrsprachigkeit, Meta-Repertoires, Mallorca, Migration