Can Hatred Speak? On the Linguistic Dimensions of Hate Crime

Gerald Posselt

Abstract


Starting from the pressing issue of hate crime and hate speech, as addressed by several EU Framework Decisions and recently by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the article focuses on the complex and often contested relation of language and violence. Whereas recent accounts are usually concerned with the violent dimension of speech and language, the article approaches the question from a different methodological angle and asks in which way hatred and violence might be understood as a form of speaking and address. This approach is based on the more general thesis that it is possible neither to gain an adequate understanding of speech and language without considering their violent force, nor to gain an adequate account of interpersonal violence without considering its linguistic dimension. In order to support this view, it will be argued that it is precisely the symbolic-linguistic character of hate crime that is responsible for its particular injurious force as well as for its dehumanizing effects. Moreover, hate crimes are not only linguistically in character, they are also directed against the possibility of language and speech itself, insofar as they aim at making us speechless, depriving us of the possibility of speaking out and being heard. This leads to an account of hate crime as a form of multi-addressed violence that not only calls for a strong concept of responsibility, but also requires a differentiated response by all social institutions and authorities.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13092/lo.82.3712