This ethnography looks at the indexical function of several brief utterances, routinely employed by a Palestinian speechmaker, in the Sheikh Jarrah protest in East Jerusalem. Following Silverstein's contributions to the indexically based theory of (meta)pragmatics, “creative” and nonreferential utterances are examined at the utterance event level, in relation to the speech event level, and more generally to verbal rituals. The political speeches I study have been delivered weekly, in Hebrew, by a Sheikh Jarrah resident and activist, for over a decade. The ethnographic analysis depicts how the utterances create a physical and symbolic (rhetorical) space for the performance of the speeches, routinize and ritualize their recurrence, and secure their endurance in a hostile environment. This is accomplished by spatially disassembling and reassembling the protesters, modifying the participation structure, and establishing a host–guest relationship. The speaker is repositioned as a resident, activist, and political rhetor-in-the-becoming, and the protestors are repositioned as his audience.
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© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Sociolinguistics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- Israel–Palestinian conflict
- Michael Silverstein
- ethnography of communication
- political activism
- political discourse analysis