Ethnic identities are low social status identities

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In this article, I investigate the interactional use of the linguistic labels “araber” and “perker” among a group of Copenhagen schoolchildren. Both labels are well-known to the Danish public and predominantly they are associated with ethno-cultural heritage. The interactional examples indicate an interesting common understanding of the two labels and their indexicalities (Ochs, 1992, Silverstein, 2003) among the group of children in focus. Within this understanding, the indexical element pointing to ethno-cultural relations does not seem to play a prominent role; instead the use invokes mainly associations to age, school orientation and transgressive and ill-advised (social and linguistic) behavior. In my discussion, I therefore suggest that the indexical re-configurations might be reflecting a wider societal tendency similar to what Madsen (2013) has argued in relation to ways of speaking. What I suggest is that the tendency in Danish public discourse to treat non-Danish ethnicities as uniquely tied to being socially and educationally inept means that certain labels, which designate these identities, are becoming emblems of a (new) societal low. The study thereby illustrates how situated language use among urban schoolchildren invoke aspects of social stratification and institutional inequality and supports the growing awareness that systematic inequalities remain even though we may talk about them in different ways than we used to (Rampton, 2006, Rampton, 2010, Rampton, 2011, Jaspers, 2011, Madsen, 2013, Madsen et al., 2016).
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 210196623