Content of the Theme

Language is used in order to describe the world around us as well as to build and maintain social relationships. In this respect, language is also a potential tool to exercise power. In totalitarian states, language can constitute an efficient instrument of power, but even in democracies, power is exercised through language. Those who possess political power and control media can influence language and determine discourses in society. At the same time, power often provokes opposition and protest and forms the basis for contrasting discourses. Also in such cases, language offers a mean to understand and change underlying power structures. Language is also a unique and powerful mean to influence the individual’s as well as the society’s social, economic and educational conditions. Language can determine an individual’s or a group’s potential to be part of society as well as play an important role in creating identity.

The theme explores the relationship between language and power which is exercised in society, politics, media and art. The research area is interdisciplinary and includes cultural theory, semiotics, linguistics, literature studies, translation studies, history, and media studies. The term language is to be understood in a wider sense and comprises not only spoken and written language, but also other semiotic and multimodal systems of meaning.


The theme Language and Power consists of four 5 credit-courses, which all can be studied as free-standing courses.

The first course provides a theoretical and methodological introduction to the theme. The following three courses provide different perspectives on the relationship between language and power, and focus on media, translation and literature, language policies and identity.

The theme starts with an introductory lecture held by an internationally renowned researcher in the field. At the end of each course, there will be a symposium, in which the results of the course will be presented and summarized, and the following course introduced by the relevant teacher.

Courses Autumn 2017 – Spring 2018

The first course, Words of Power, provides the theoretical basis and offers analytical tools for studying the relationship between language and power. The course will, except for a few introductory lectures, consist of seminars, in which research students discuss and analyse various aspects of the theme.

The second course, Power and Language of Media, elucidates the complex power structures transferred through language, different roles of media in democracies and dictatorships as well as media’s dependence on institutions, authorities and organizations. Also in this course, theoretical studies will be alternated with practical exercises, e.g. analysis of journalistic texts.

Courses Autumn 2018 — Spring 2019

The third course, in the beginning of the theme’s second year, Translation and Power, presents an overview of how language and power manifests itself within the field of literary translation.

The fourth course, Language and Identity — in language policy and minority languages, examines, from a language policy perspective, the role of language items for the creation of identity. This course is offered by teachers of Finnish and Portugese, who can provide different views on minority languages and language contact.

Practical information

Apart from a couple of guest lectures, which will be in English, the courses will be held in Swedish. However, students are free to participate in discussions, give presentations and hand in assignments either in English or in Swedish.

Collaborating teachers and researchers


Coordinators: Clarissa Blomqvist (Slabafinety) and Charlotta Seiler Brylla (Slabafinety)

Information in Swedish: Språk och makt