Part of the Department of Political Science 2022-23 Politics Workshop
Sponsored by the European Union Center
Co-sponsored by the Center for Global Studies
Abstract: Multilingualism is a feature in political contexts around the world, including multilingual states and international organizations. Increasingly, consequential political decisions are negotiated between politicians who do not share a common native language. “The Language(s) of Politics” uses the case of the European Union to investigate how politicians’ reliance on shared foreign languages and translation services affects politics and policy-making. It not only shows that multilingualism is an inherent and consequential feature of EU politics, but also that it depoliticizes policy-making by reducing its political nature and potential for conflict. That is because both foreign language use and reliance on translation result in communication that is simple, utilitarian, neutralized, and involves commonly shared phrases and expressions, which masks the national and political backgrounds, preferences, and priorities of EU actors. Policy-makers also tend to disregard politically charged language because it might not reflect what a speaker meant to say, and they are constrained in their ability to use vague or ambiguous language to gloss over disagreements by the need for consistency across languages. Multilingualism thus affects the EU’s political culture, by shaping perceptions of political differences, polarization of opinion, intensity of debate, and the resonance of arguments and evidence.
Biography: Nils Ringe is Professor and Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also the Director of the Jean Monnet EU Center for Comparative Populism. His research centers on democratic political institutions, European Union politics, populism, and legislative politics, and he held a Jean Monnet Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 2015-2021. His notable publications include: The European Union and Beyond: Multi-Level Governance, Institutions, and Policy-Making (ed. with Jae-Jae Spoon, 2020, ECPR), Bridging the Information Gap: Legislative Member Organizations as Social Networks in the United States and the European Union (with Jennifer Victor and Christopher Carman, 2013, Michigan) and Who Decides, and How? Preferences, Uncertainty, and Policy Choice in the European Parliament (2010, Oxford).