From Homer to Hate Speech: A Humanities View on Language in Conflict

Jakob Summerer Announcement
Subject Fields
Cultural History / Studies, Graduate Studies, Humanities, Literature, Linguistics

Postgraduate Conference

Trinity College Dublin

School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies

5 – 6 October 2023


From Homer to Hate Speech: A Humanities View on Language in Conflict

Language is profoundly implicated in conflict. Homer’s Iliad, the foundational text of the Western canon, begins with the wrath of Achilles, and in twenty-four books describes in agonizing poetic detail the violent excesses of war. Here an already distant history of conflict is bound inextricably to myth. Language intervenes to transform the chaos of worldly conflict into the aesthetic form of poetry which in turn renders that experience intelligible. But language does not merely represent and aestheticise conflict, it also plays a role in the escalation and resolution of conflicts. It can even be the core of a conflict, as illuminated by recent debates in the media regarding gender identity and language. Conflicts arising from the misuse of personal pronouns are usually framed on the one side as the exercise of a fundamental freedom of speech, and on the other as discriminatory hate speech, drawing our attention to language’s ability to do harm, and raising suspicion towards values often held to be of universal character.

Conflict can be understood etymologically as a forceful “clashing together” (con + flīgō) of opposed actors, their ideals, identities and goals, which then can erupt in real-world manifestations of violence, of physical collision. But as illustrated above, conflict and violence need not be physical. Our conference looks to examine the centrality of language to the different aspects of conflict. At what points of a conflict does language enter into the equation? How can language start a conflict, and how can it end one? Is violence inherent to language as a replacement of the “thing in itself” with its representation? How does power enter the relationship between language and conflict as discourse? How does an absence of language feature in conflict? 


Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of conflict and violence in various text types (journalistic, literary, visual, material etc.)
  • Representations of different kinds of conflict (intrapsychic, interpersonal, intercultural, international, inter-species etc.)
  • Language’s role at different stages of conflict (emergence, escalation, resolution etc.)
  • Conflict and Pragmatics (speech act theory, impoliteness etc.)
  • Translations of/in conflict
  • Conflicts in figurative language (conflicts as metaphors, analogies, similes etc.)
  • Conflict and humour
  • Perspectives on the forms violence takes (physical, psychological, linguistic, systemic, revolutionary, ecological etc.)
  • Historical and contemporary conceptualisations of conflict and violence


This conference invites post-graduate students and early career researchers from across the humanities to give their thoughts on the linguistic and cultural dimensions of conflict. This will be an opportunity to share your work, meet other researchers, and reflect on the pervasive theme of conflict.

Please send an abstract of 250 words and a short bio of about 80 words to by May 31st. The conference will be held in person from October 5th to October 6th, in the Trinity Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin. Researchers will have 20 minutes for their presentations, followed by a Q&A at the end of each session. We also encourage and accept non-traditional presentation formats such as videos, spoken-word poetry, performance etc.

Contact Information
Jakob SummererPhD ResearcherPGR Representative (SLLCS at TCD)PGR Representative German Studies Association of IrelandDept of Germanic StudiesSchool of Languages, Literatures and Cultural StudiesTrinity College Dublin
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