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Hate speech as cultural practice

David Boromisza-Habashi, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Recent scholarship on hate speech employs externally conceived, purportedly universal definitions to identify hate speech in society. In comparison, the present dissertation is concerned with local cultural conceptions of hate speech (gyülöletbeszéd) active in the communicative practices of a specific speech community, among Hungarian public speakers. Instead of promoting his own preconceived understanding of hate speech, the author relies on the ethnography of communication (as conceived by Hymes and further advanced by Philipsen, Carbaugh, and others) and cultural discourse analytic methodology developed by Carbaugh and his associates to investigate how Hungarians use 'hate speech' to routinely mark a type of talk that is significant to them. 'Hate speech' is approached as a cultural term for communicative action. Analyses are applied to a corpus of Hungarian language data derived principally from broadcast discussions of 'hate speech' and, secondarily, from participant observations, ethnographic interviews, the print media, political cartoons, parliamentary committee transcripts, and literary texts. ^ The author (1) investigates what types of communicative conduct cultural members mark with the term 'hate speech,' (2) describes uses of the term in situated interaction and the enactments of conduct the term is routinely applied to, (3) analyzes the forms of communication the use of the term occasions, and (4) interprets communal meanings active in such use, with special attention to meanings about personhood, sociation, and communication. It is found that the meaning of 'hate speech' is hotly contested in the context of Hungarian social and political transformation. From the analyses, 'hate speech' emerges as a type of communication marked by a certain mode, tone, degree of code structuring and efficaciousness. Hungarian public discourse pits three types of moral systems against one another, all of which imply distinct models of personhood and sociation, make sense of 'hate speech' as a violation of communal norms in different ways, and propose divergent sanctions against 'hate speech.' Broadcast metadiscourses and allegations of 'hate speech' are shown to function as sites of the cultural contestation. The dissertation features recommendations for informed communicative practice and potential directions for future research. ^ Keywords. Hate speech, moral discourse, political discourse, public discourse, cultural discourse, metadiscourse, allegations, term for talk, communication, communicative action, ethnography.^

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Boromisza-Habashi, David, "Hate speech as cultural practice" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3339550.