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

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Trinity College Dublin

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

In 2023, we are surrounded by conflicts. Some of the recent conflicts that have entered mainstream news sources in Ireland have been the housing and cost of living crisis, the protests in Iran and France, the war in Ukraine, and the centenary of the Irish Civil War, while online one cannot avoid the so-called culture wars and the struggle for and reaction to social progress. Critics have pointed out that the Western canon begins with a conflict, with the belligerent rage of a Greek demigod in Homer’s Iliad: mēnin aeide thea, ‘the wrath, sing Goddess, of Achilles son of Peleus’. As an epic about war and conflict, the word wrath has captured critics’ attention, but the implications of that second word, sing, the performative call to the Muse for representation and recollection, must also be considered. In literary and other representations (and perpetuations) of conflict, form and content are inter-related, and our conference aims to examine this relationship more closely.  

Representation is not the only way language comes to be implicated in conflict. Recent issues in the media have seen language at the centre of social conflicts, right down to the pronouns we use to identify ourselves. Conflicts arising from language use are often framed on the one side as the exercise of a fundamental freedom of speech, and on the other as hate speech, drawing attention to language’s ability to do harm.   

Conflict can be understood etymologically as a forceful “clashing together” of opposed agents, ideals, identities, and goals, among other things. Our conference looks to examine the centrality of language to the different aspects of different kinds of conflict, ranging from its merely representative role to its performative role as an agent 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? How do language and violence coincide, and language and power? What determines a conflict, and what does labelling particular social relations as a ‘conflict’ imply? Where do language and ideology intertwine, and can they ever be separate? 


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

  • Psychoanalysis, trauma theory and the role of language

  • Silence and its potential meanings 

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. We welcome a broad array of papers from cultural, literary, and media studies, as well as from peace studies and other areas. 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.