AAA Annual Meeting 2021
November 18, 2021
Baltimore, United States
Making Legible the Linguistic Tools of Populist Regimes: Codeswitching as a Political Technique in the Contemporary Philippines
Recently, the world has witnessed an increase in populist leaders rising to new levels of political power, including in the contemporary Philippines. Fueled in part by market-driven analytics to maximize appeal, many current populist leaders have had great success in constructing election-winning political personae and embracing rhetorical strategies that have captured the hearts and minds of people in their respective countries. This paper presents an analysis that goes beyond rhetoric to demonstrate that some of the most important tools and techniques in building and sustaining populist appeal lie in generating affective connections through language. In this way, language can be seen as a medium through which hegemonic relations are built and sustained along many dimensions. This analysis specifically engages with codeswitching as a locally-calibrated technique employed by the current Philippine president through which affective connections are built and sustained, a practice that resonates in special ways with the linguistic experiences of speakers in the multilingual Philippine milieu. Consonant with the theme of this year’s conference, “Truth and Responsibility,” this approach engages with the possibility that linguistic analysis can be used to shed light on the tools and techniques used by populist leaders around the world, revealing the multiple ways that language can be leveraged to achieve political power and influence.