Brokers beyond language boundaries? Diffusion, and democratic innovation in transnational publics
Social and Political Sciences Free University Berlin Berlin, Germany
In the context of global activism in a porous public (cf. Olesen), cultural and linguistic terms conditions the effects of social movements. Activists' language skills, and their media knowledge vary, yet activists participate in (transnational) learning processes in which they acquire the skills to diffuse claims and frames across countries. Activists even specialise and become communicative brokers able to diffuse multilingual skills of communication in their own groups and in their media tactics. If the dominant cultural and linguistic frames in domestic media publics restrict movements' impact on home societies, brokers may also mobilise target groups beyond national, cultural, and regional borders. I show that the world-wide Social Forum (WSF) process and European Social Forum (ESF) processes have triggered the emergence of a new type of norm entrepreneurs, communicative brokers, who diffuse norms and strategies of multilingual communication suitable to culturally hybrid movement democracies in Non-Western and Western European groups, which could also propose broader societal innovations of conflict solving in multicultural democracy and porous (transnational) publics. Comparing trans-national and local meetings of African and European groups within the umbrella of the ESF and WSF processes, the proposed paper will, first (1), investigate the problem of linguistic misunderstandings and of conflict for democracy in movement groups. Second (2), it explores the innovative methods that activists have developed to include multilingualism within their repertoires of contention applied towards the outside public sphere. The findings compare the variety of different translation practices in culturally mixed groups. Among the scenarios compared are practices of (a) multilingual face-to-face communication, (b) multilingual internet communication, and (c) visual tactics of communication towards media audiences by which radical activists try to a mobilise migrants, and resource poor or precarious people. Whether radical protesters impact and reach out on transnational media publics does not necessarily depend on material or technological resources. Rather, working experiences, particular cultural and linguistic skills, and broader societal environments in which groups emerge get resources to understand how activists dialogue, or become brokers beyond language borders.