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Sounding off: slogans, battle cries and chants

Sounding off: slogans, battle cries and chants

The slogan is frequently considered as a type of political and social discourse possessing an intrinsic poeticity. Thus, in his well-known lecture “Linguistics and Poetics,” the final essay in Style in Language, Roman Jakobson uses a campaign slogan as an example of the “poetic function of language.” In line with the seminal works of Leo Spitzer and Charles Bally linguists and specialists of discourse analysis, who consider that literary language is not to be seen as an exception to “normal” language usage, have devoted numerous studies to advertising and campaign slogans. Protest and revolutionary slogans, which are more readily seen as having a deliberately poetic dimension, have also been recently become objects of study.

Although the Gaelic etymology of the term slogan, coming from sluag-ghairn, “the war cry of a clan” is often referred to, slogans as examples of oral poetic performances have not been extensively examined, particularly in comparison with the attention given to graffiti in anthropology. Yet slogans represent one of the most common practices in protest movements and militant activities, a high point in collective action, situated on the borderline between a polyphonic poetic performance and an awareness-raising device within the frame of a local strategy of political communication. The ethnomusicologist Jaume Ayats offers an illuminating definition: “[…] what is a slogan? An expression defined by its actual use in social acts: an expression uttered collectively in the context of a form of linguistic autonomy, of minimal transmission of “information,” but representing the existence and the power of a group. Which explains its form: as a finalized expression, not open to dialogue, which always behaves like a quotation being constantly recreated, replete with collective connotations and open to the pleasure of group expression. The result is the structure described in the first part of this text, a polyphonic construction elaborated over a period of time, based on the play of different levels of oral utterance; the epitome of poetic production.” (Ayats 1992: 358)

Slogans as poetic performances raise a variety of scholarly issues, suggesting the need for precise studies which take into account the contexts both of production and reception: what role do these performances play in collective movements? What links do they have with oral and/or written cultural and literary repertories, which they reactivate? What is the creative logic behind their creation and in particular on what pre-existing written representations are they based? How are they collected and preserved? What are the afterlives of these performances when they are given written and textualized form and circulate outside the initial scene of utterance? What happens to them when they are re-appropriated in other political and creative contexts?

This issue invites proposals focusing on the dynamics of these ephemeral performances and the poetic production to which they give rise. Slogans and chants used in demonstrations, objects existing in many forms, can be the subject of studies based on a variety of disciplinary approaches focusing on both content and form in order to analyse the issues, both pragmatic and political, raised by these polyphonic oral performances known as slogans. Historical studies of this form of political communication would also be welcome.

Deadlines and submission:

Proposals (with a title and a resume of not more than 1000 signs) should be sent to zoe.carle@gmail.com and s.bornand@bluewin.ch before May 15, 2021.

Finished articles (after acceptance of the proposal) should be sent before January 15, 2022.

Articles can be written in either English or French. The title, abstract and keywords should be written in both English and French. The style sheet is available on the website of the publication: https://journals.openedition.org/clo/851


– May 15: abstract

– January 15: first draft

– February 15: return corrections to authors

– End of March : second draft

– June : correction by the reviewers

– Final version September 2022