The impact of language and gender studies

Public engagement and wider communication

Authored by: Deborah Cameron

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter discusses the relationship of language and gender research to what has come to be called the ‘impact agenda’, i.e. the view (increasingly emphasised by funding bodies and the government agencies that oversee higher education in many countries) that academic research should contribute not only to disciplinary knowledge, but also to the wider public good. The chapter focuses on those forms of impact that involve public engagement – making expert knowledge accessible and relevant to non-academic publics. This is a long-established practice in language and gender studies, but the chapter considers how the recent institutionalisation of ‘impact’, along with post-1970s developments in media and communication technology, have produced both new opportunities and new problems. It summarises what experts can bring to public discussions of language and gender under the heading of ‘the three Cs’: correction, contextualisation, and complication; and it argues that the main obstacle they face is not the one most often addressed in media training for academics, namely the difficulty of gaining access to audiences in today’s crowded ‘marketplace of ideas’, but rather retaining enough control over the way their work is presented to avoid reinforcing rather than challenging popular myths and stereotypes.

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