The Language of State Policy in Time and Space: Discursive Responses to Earthquakes and Inundations in China

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation at conference/workshop/seminar


The notion that natural disasters, and the crises they precipitate, require an official response is almost axiomatic. Equally evident are threats to the state’s very own existence as a result of mismanaged natural disasters. Nonetheless, available studies of natural disasters and ensuing crises have largely bypassed the close examination of policy as official responses to natural disasters. This article presents one such examination of the language of policy launched in response to natural disasters in southwestern China since 2000. Instruments of authority pertaining to post-disaster reconstruction were analysed for the discursive treatment of pre-existing crises, potential crises as well as disaster-induced crises. Specifically, the analyses centred on aspects of reconstruction with implications for the resettlement of population and reconstitution of local communities in the same or different locations. Variations in policy treatment within and between disasters were situated within an ideological matrix, a theoretical extension of Karatani’s (2004/2012) temporal concept of “discursive space”. Different ways of construing belonging and citizenship within this matrix were interpreted with reference to the spatial modelling of statehood by theorists such as Lefebvre (2009), Jessop (2003), and Brenner (2004). At some of these theoretical junctures, the findings appeared to add to recent work concerning the co-evolution of discourse and disaster in the literature (e.g. Rycker and Zuridah, 2013). The article ends with theoretical reflections upon the multiple manifestations of statehood in policy and the discursive shaping of nationhood therein.
Event titleSociolinguistics Symposium 23
Event typeConference
LocationHong Kong, Hong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational