Notes on Invectivity and Metainvectivity
Joachim Scharloth (Waseda University, Tokyo)
Scharloth, Joachim. “Notes on Invectivity and Metainvectivity.” Invective Discourse, edited by Simon Meier-Vieracker, Heidrun Kämper & Ingo Warnke. De Gruyter, 2023, pp. 11–26.
▤ Contents
The article characterizes metainvectivity as a constitutive force in the construction of the invective and the analysis of metainvective debates as a key to understanding the functions of invectivity for the constitution of the social order. Using the concepts of human dignity, honour, shame, politeness, and recognition as examples, the paper illustrates that in core theories constructive exchange is considered the normal case, while the invective dimension is considered to be an exception. In contrast to this, this paper attempts to highlight that the reorientation associated with the notion of invectivity is that it interprets social interactions as fundamentally ambiguous. Based on the insight that metainvective practices always bear the potential to be invective themselves, metainvective debates are characterised as a contested enregisterment for symbolic practices. By looking at recurring patterns in current metainvective debates, the article illustrates that these debates are mediums for negotiating conceptions of social order.
1. Language and Power, Language and Violence

At first glance, the German term Gewalt is imprecise, as its extension covers very different phenomena like physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone as well as the authority to give orders and make decisions in the political or administrative sphere. These dimensions of meaning can be conceptualised by means of the Latin distinction between potestas and violentia. While potestas refers to power, authority, or control, the term violentia can be translated into force or violence.

However, even if this conceptual distinction seems helpful at first, the contamination of both dimensions of the meaning of Gewalt proves to be interesting, especially when applied to language. When viewing language as a medium of violentia, the case seems clear. We might think of speech acts with which we make negative attributions and aim to marginalise or exclude the person we talk about (“X is an idiot!”). When viewing language as a means of potestas, we will consider language as a medium evoking order through conceptual categorization. By naming things, we categorise them, which means: we apprehend them as representative of a certain class. But any categorisation is not solely driven by [11|12] the qualities of the entity in question but also by the pragmatic needs of the speakers. Only particular dimensions of a subject are highlighted and in doing so, the subject is constructed as a social entity. If I call X a man, it only highlights a certain quality of him and leaves many others unmentioned. But, depending on the context, this categorisation might serve my pragmatic needs. Language, therefore, is not a tool for the description of our world, it is a medium for the construction of reality.

Without categorisation, we cannot speak. A language that only consists of names would not serve our communicative needs. Categorisation is therefore inevitable. It is through linguistic categorisation that entities become social entities in the first place. And individuals are transformed into social identities through the act of naming. But what if individuals or groups of individuals find the categories used to describe them inadequate? What if they feel disparaged, insulted, or excluded by them? Then categorisation, as an act of potestas, is interpreted an act of violentia. Therefore, the distinction between violentia and potestas has been increasingly called into question in recent years (cf. Krämer 2007). Or, to put it more neutral: the interrelation of both dimensions has gained more attention. As much as the order-creating power of language is one of its universal features, linguistic violence as its flip side is viewed as unavoidable. This is where invectivity theory comes into play.

Public discourse on the issue of discriminatory and insulting speech is mainly concerned with the questions of how to avoid derogatory language usage, how to contain its negative effects, and how to find legal means to defend the right to human dignity against linguistic violence without significantly restricting the freedom of speech. This is a legitimate approach and even a necessity in times where pejorative and discriminatory practices seem in vogue, in which hate speech has found large resonance chambers within the social media, and the forming of public opinion is threatened by an intimidating and divisive debate culture.

Yet, based on the reflections above, I will take a different path in this paper. In the second section, I will examine some key theories from law and social sciences to see what role insult, denigration, and exclusion play in them. I will argue that conceptualisations of derogatory language characterise it as an exception, as a deviant form, or even a misuse of communicative means, whereas positive interactions are portrayed as the normal case. In section 3, I will introduce invectivity theory, which views the use of potentially derogatory language as a universal mode of interaction, and a fundamental manifestation of the social. In the last section, I will discuss how metainvective communication shapes a society's notion of violent and non-violent language, how it serves as a medium of reflection, [12|13] and how it can be used as a means of politics, i.e. as a core force in the stabilisation and dynamisation of cultural and social orders.


2. Disparagement and the Social Order

Let us start with a cursory look at the legal handling of derogatory language in Germany. In German criminal law, insults, slander, and defamation are categorised as violations of the honour of a person (StGB §§ 185 – 200, cf. Hirsch 1998, Küpper 2007).  Basically, a distinction can be made between a normative (ethical and legal) and a factual-social concept of honour (Rühl 2002: 201). The factual-social concept of honour means the reputation in the eyes of others, the prestige of a person, his or her “good name”. In this semantics, the honour accorded to persons thus differs from person to person depending on the recognition accorded to him or her. The normative concept of honour is independent of the recognition actually accorded to a person by his or her fellow human beings. It is a claim to respect independent of a person's status. This claim can be met or disregarded. The normative concept of honour initially seems predestined to serve as the basis of a legal version of claims to respect, because it refers to the abstract person, who is always already presupposed as a legal subject in the sense of equality before the law. Recently, however, this interpretation has been challenged by a view of equality that sees the recognition of minorities in their specific differences as a condition of equality (Rühl 2002: 206). This argument aims at the protection against discrimination, which can only be achieved through the recognition of claims to respect for otherness. However, the demand for the recognition of difference refers to the factual-social and not to the normative concept of honour. Accordingly, the legal asset of honour, which is worthy of protection, can serve not only as a source of norms in the area of insult and disparagement but also of discrimination and hate speech.

Another approach in law is to model disparaging speech as one form of violation of a fundamental principle of several European constitutions, namely: “Human dignity is inviolable.” The four main categories of violation of dignity are humiliation, instrumentalization or objectification, degradation, and dehumanization each of which has linguistic correlates (cf. Herrmann 2011). The two legal approaches either constitute social norms (as in the case of human dignity) or set norms on how to punish the violation of the implicit norm of respecting the honour of another person. We can therefore conclude that having dignity or respecting honour is constructed as the normal case, the violation of dignity and honour the exceptional case. [13|14]

Moving from law to sociology, we find several theories in which disparaging speech plays an important role. One is Axel Honneth's (1995) theory of recognition. According to the Frankfurt-based philosopher, the possibility of sensing and realising one's needs and desires as an autonomous, individuated person is based on self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem as modes of relating to oneself. Yet, identity-formation is a social process and these modes can only be successfully developed through “being granted recognition by someone whom one also recognizes” (Anderson 1996: xi). Honneth acknowledges, of course, that there are struggles for recognition (and his reflections on them form the most interesting part of his work); but reciprocal recognition is the norm, struggles for recognition are the exception.

Another sociological category related to the effects of disparaging speech is shame. Shame, as defined by Thomas J. Scheff (2000), is “a large family of emotions that includes […] embarrassment, humiliation, and related feelings such as shyness that involve reactions to rejection or feelings of failure or inadequacy. What unites all these cognates is that they involve the feeling of a threat to the social bond”. Shame plays an important role in the civilisation process, as depicted by Norbert Elias (1991) who describes it as a fear. A fear of social degradation, a fear of the superiority gestures of others. Shame-fear emerges when an individual's behaviour is in conflict with those parts of the individual's personality which represent the social opinion. This inner conflict triggers fears of not being loved or respected by others who matter. Thus, shame is a display of the internalisation of social norms. In theories of shame, avoiding embarrassment is the norm as it expresses consent, renews social norms, and reaffirms social bonds; behaviour leading to being shamed is the exception.

Erving Goffman's works on threats to face also initially operated with the notion of embarrassment (cf. Goffman 1956). He uses the term face in the sense of a “positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (1967: 5). The face is maintained when it is internally consistent, when it is supported by judgment and evidence conveyed by other participants, and when it is confirmed “by evidence conveyed through and personal agencies in the situation” (Goffman 1967: 6-7). The avoidance of face-threatening acts and with it the maintenance of a desirable social identity is therefore achieved through interaction rituals, in which the social order is being reproduced. As in shame theory, it is the threat of denigration which constitutes order. The ritualized order is the norm, the violation of the face an extraordinary exception.

What these theories – presented in all brevity – have in common is that they implicitly or explicitly link the self, social bond, or even social order to the threats [14|15] posed by shaming, insults, denigration, and damages to the face. Even though honour can be disregarded and human dignity violated, every individual possesses dignity either as a human by nature or as a member of society. Despite all struggles for recognition, establishing relationships of mutual recognition is a core condition for developing into an autonomous and individuated person. The fear of being rejected by others because of breaching internalised social norms leads to a reaffirmation of norms and social bonds in every interaction. And reciprocally avoiding face-threatening acts creates a social order through interaction rituals.

Even though the invective dimension of communication is not the primary focus of many theories of the social, it is an important point of reference. Although the threat of disparagement is constitutive of the formation of social order in many theories, the phenomenon of disparagement itself is viewed as a rare exception and is barely ever theorised.


3. Invectivity Theory

In contrast to the theories sketched, in invectivity theory impolite, insulting or disparaging speech is not just an exception. Communication is viewed as inherently ambiguous and every conversation harbours risks for the social position of those participating in it or those conversing about it in the future. As with every act of communication, we do not just make statements about the world but also position ourselves and others in the social space and rely on the ratification of our positioning practices through others. Our social position is always at stake and a possible target of acts we or others might perceive as degrading.

Harold Garfinkel (1967) has drawn our attention to the methods people use to co-construct intersubjective descriptions of reality. One of these everyday methods is the documentary method of interpretation. It takes its starting point from the observation that knowledge that people draw on in interaction with others largely remains tacit, atheoretical, and unexplicated. Although the knowledge deployed in interaction remains tacit, it is documented and thus becomes accessible to others by virtue of the participants’ actions.

The documentary method of interpretation as applied by the participants then comprises continually interpreting and re-interpreting each other's behaviour and looking for underlying patterns. The method consists of treating an actual appearance as “the document of”, as “pointing to”, as “standing on behalf of” a presupposed underlying pattern. Because of the incomplete specifications in a given situation, the participants are forced to make inferences beyond the [15|16] information that is presented. The particular behaviour and the pattern it is compared with are mutually constitutive of each other: certain specific features of the alleged pattern are used as evidence of the very existence of that pattern and the particular features are (even though fragmentary and therefore indexical) interpreted with the help of the pattern, constituting a reciprocal relationship.

This opens up the scope for re-interpretations. In every single step of a conversation, the meaning of every previous step can be changed and with it the meaning of the whole. Utterances like “It all was a joke” or “I was lying to you” may even turn the meaning of the whole conversation upside down and will make us apply a different pattern. Intersubjectivity and meaning in this view, therefore, are volatile phenomena that are momentarily produced by the actions. Just like ambiguous images allow multiple perceptions, the reality is ambiguous and may permanently change the way it is constructed as participants move on with their conversation.

How is this related to invective communication? The participants in an interaction are not innocent bystanders or outsiders to the world they co-construct. They are not extra-diegetic narrators of a world or puppet masters of events in which they are not involved. They are rather the object and the subject of these processes at the same time, no matter whether they participate as speakers and hearers or as mere audience or witnesses. Every co-construction of reality is a co-construction of ourselves and our relationships to others in this reality. In these reciprocal processes of co-construction, in which the social position of the subjects is negotiated, it is not only possible it is even likely that others will construct us in a way that is not in accordance with our self-image. It is possible that our social position is defined in a way which restricts our possibilities to act more than the position of others. It may even be the case that we are constructed as deficient or worthless and excluded from communication. Just like our perception of ambiguous images can change from one moment to the other, every conversation harbours risks for the social position of those participating in it.

When Günther Oettinger, then EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, addressed business leaders in Hamburg on 26 October 2016, he captivated the audience with an entertaining and humorous speech. During his speech he made the following remarks on the visit of a Chinese delegation to the European Commission, which were uploaded to YouTube1: [16|17]

Es geht, meine Damen und Herren, um governance. Um die Frage der Regierungskunst. Um die Frage, ob man handlungsfähig ist. Letzt Woche waren die chinesischen Minister bei uns zum Jahresgipfel China-EU. Neun Männer, eine Partei. Keine Demokratie. Keine Frauenquote, keine Frau, folgerichtig. Alle im Anzug, Einreiher, dunkelblau. Alle Haare von links nach rechts mit schwarzer Schuhcreme gekämmt. Und wir? Wir haben bald mehr Gremien als Einwohner.
[“It's all about governance, ladies and gentlemen. It's about the art of governance. It's about the capabilities of acting. Last week, Chinese ministers visited us for the annual China-EU summit. Nine men, one party. No democracy. No female quota, no woman, consequentially. All of them in suits, single-breasted jacket, dark-blue. All of them had their hair combed from the left to the right with black shoe polish. And what about us? Soon we'll have more committees than inhabitants.”, translation: JS]

As can be seen from the short clip, the audience was amused by his remarks on the outer appearance of the Chinese delegation as well as by Günther Oettinger implying that women in Western countries were only in higher positions due to female quotas.

Whereas business leaders seemed to have enjoyed the speech, the clip went viral on social media. Commenters on YouTube called his speech “racist, homophobic and sexist”, claimed they felt “as Germans ashamed for this guy”, and that “Oettinger is a disgrace for Europe and should step down.” Newspapers and other media outlets followed this interpretation and voiced harsh criticism of the speech and the person during the following days.

The speaker of the Chinese foreign minister subsequently voiced that Oettinger’s remarks revealed “a baffling sense of superiority entrenched in some Western politicians. We hope that they can learn how to view themselves and others objectively and respect and treat others as equals”. Several days later, Oettinger issued a statement apologizing for “any remark that was not as respectful as it should have been”.2

The follow-up communication changed the interpretation of the social meaning of the speech. What seemed to be a witty and humorous speech to the audience, was viewed as a plethora of racist and sexist remarks by the wider public. The interpretation of the speech as racist and derogatory towards the Chinese people became hegemonic, whereas Oettinger’s own interpretation of some parts of the speech as joking remarks became marginalised. With his apology, Oettinger acknowledged the hegemonic interpretation as one possible reading of the disputed remarks. [17|18]

This makes this case an interesting example of the essential ambiguity of all social acts and a showcase where we can see the documentary method of interpretation at work: whereas for some parts of the audience, Oettinger’s remarks on the Chinese pointed to a joking modality, for the other part of the audience, certain indexical features of Oettinger's speech have invoked a different pattern for the interpretation not only of these remarks but of the speech as a whole. The uploader of the video states that he initially was surprised by Oettinger's “ability to speak freely and be entertaining at the same time”, yet, “his speech got an unexpected twist. Suddenly he spoke about ‘chiselers and chinky eyes’ [“Schlitzaugen” - a racist German word for Asian people, JS] we should be afraid of.”3

From this example, there is also much to learn with regard to invectivity. The term invectivity is an umbrella term. It includes the core semantic components of related terms like insult (cf. Meier 2007), impoliteness (cf. Bousfield 2008), verbal aggression (cf. Bonacchi 2017), or hate speech (cf. Meibauer 2013). Invectivity is defined, firstly, as a process of evaluating and labeling people (a person or a group) by means of verbal and/or non-verbal acts of communication be they oral or written, gestic or mimic, visual or pictorial. Secondly, these labeling processes have the potential to affect the social position of a person or a group in a negative way, to discriminate against them or even expel them from the community or even from society. Thirdly, the effects of the use of potentially denigrating symbolic forms depend on context as well as follow-up communication (cf. Ellerbrock et al. 2018). Invectivity, therefore, becomes visible – ideally speaking – within a triangulated constellation.

Abbildung 1
Figure 1: Invective Triangle

The corner points of this triangle represent those who utter invectives, those who are addressed with invectives, and an audience that represents a relevant public. Yet, there is no such thing as a persistent position within this triad. The filling of the respective position is subject to change depending on the dynamics of communication processes. Günther Oettinger initially held the position of the one voicing the invective and the Chinese ministers were the target of the invective. In the course of the debate, however, Oettinger became the target of invective attributions by the wider public audience. The narrower audience of business leaders in the auditorium was also criticised for having endorsed the EU Commissioner's speech. Thus, invectives unfold their quality as well as their capacity only in complex social settings and through reflective communication loops (cf. Ellerbrock / Steinberg 2021, Koch 2021). [18|19]

In contrast to a traditional understanding of speech act theory which involves autonomous speakers, in invectivity theory, the role of third parties is central to the co-construction of invective events. Third parties are involved in the construction of invective events and therefore in constituting subjects in three ways. Firstly, they ratify statements as disparagement as witnesses. Secondly, speaking is done on behalf of others if the speaker is equipped with social capital. And thirdly, invective utterances invoke and cite discursive conventions and classifications established by traditions of speaking (cf. Kuch 2010: 234-236). It is therefore also obvious that the category of intention loses importance here: it is not the intentions of the speaker which decide on the meaning of an utterance but the follow-up communications among the invective triangle. Intentions are rather a resource that can be used in follow-up communications to make plausible certain strategic interpretations of the communication situation in question (“I didn't mean it that way.”, “It's a misunderstanding.”, “It was not my intention.”).

On the pragmatic level, the different manifestations of invectives are linked by a common modality of social interaction and communication. This modality is contextualised, for example, by the use of swear and curse phrases, pejorative expressions, generalizations, hyperboles, superlatives, intonations of reproach, etc. (cf. Kallmeyer/Schütze 1977; Kallmeyer 1979; Spiegel 1995, 233-270). The invective interaction modality not only enables an invective framing of communicative acts or situations but also allows the participants to foreground emotions or to perform affect practices in a credible way and is thus an essential condition for the potential of invective speech to escalate. [19|20]

Invectivity theory, of course, also takes into account the broader social and discursive context. In interactions, it is only possible to invoke invectives if they are preconfigured in the semantics of a society, e.g. as prejudices or everyday world argumentation patterns. Invectivity is based on notions of normality as notions of normality in turn produce the abnormal and the deviant (cf. Link 2006). Conceptions of normality are thus the conditions for some subject positions being hegemonic and others marginal. The production of the normal is based on power. It is therefore structural power relations that constitute perceptions, that form the basis for the negotiation of disadvantages and privileges, that are dynamic in their realization and so fundamental for hegemonic self-understandings and self-assurances that they cannot be simply changed, left out, renamed, or eliminated (cf. Hornscheidt 2013).

Yet, invectivity theory is also concerned with the question of how societal semantics and its discoursive conditions change, or in the words of Judith Butler: “Even if hate speech works to constitute a subject through discursive means, is that constitution necessarily final and effective? Is there a possibility of disrupting and subverting the effects produced by such speech, a faultline exposed, that leads to the undoing of this process of discursive constitution?” (Butler 1997: 19)

In the following section, I will argue that triggering metainvective debates is a central medium of negotiating and changing the boundaries of the invective and thus a medium of changing perceptions of social order.


4. Metapragmatics of Invectivity

Metapragmatic research is concerned with the “investigation of that area of speakers’ competence which reflects the judgments of appropriateness on one’s own and other people’s communicative behavior” and the exploration “of the ‘know how’ regarding the control and planning of, as well as feedback on, the ongoing interaction” (Caffi 1994: 2461, 2464). Metainvective discourses are concerned, at least on the surface, with the norms of appropriateness of language use. Typically, assertions are made about which expressions should be considered invective in which situation when uttered by which person. Some prototypical examples of metainvective utterances are claims of having been insulted as a strategic resource in an agonal field (“This really went too far…”, “This is racist!”), identity-political positioning referring to the effects of perceived invective acts or structures (“White identity is inherently racist”), and attribution of invective dimensions to the meaning of linguistic expressions or practices (“Blackfacing is always racist”). [20|21]

Linguistics has coined the term enregisterment for communicative processes in which linguistic entities become indexical for a certain pattern of interpretation. In the words of Asif Agha (2004: 37): “Enregisterment is the processes through which a repertoire of linguistic forms (a register) becomes differentiable from the rest of the language (i.e., recognizable as distinct, linked to typifiable social personae or practices) for a given population of speakers.” (Agha 2004: 37) Enregisterment is the result of regular patterns of metapragmatic typification (Agha 2004: 29) through which linguistic forms become widely perceived as being 'emblematic' for a given sociodemographic context (cf. Silverstein 2003). Enregisterment can thus be referred to as high order indexicality.

Metapragmatic communication, therefore, defines what it repeatedly talks about. In the case of invectivity, recurrent communication about the form, the indexical value, or the types of usage of certain practices contribute to the common societal concept of what is being perceived as invective.

What distinguishes metapragmatic communication about invective acts from most other forms of metapragmatic communication are some specifics of its performative dimension: it not only explicitly assigns a meaning to the linguistic form and its usage (to a semiotic act) but also strongly associates the speaker with a social persona with highly undesirable traits. Calling a speech act racist will not show its speaker in a very favourable light. It will rather associate the speaker with the role of a racist or supremacist. Metainvective communication therefore often has an invective dimension itself (cf. Scharloth 2017, 2018). As certain practices become emblematic of certain social persona, we can also see that concepts of the social order and invective communication are closely intertwined.

Because metainvective practices have the potential to be invective themselves, metainvective debates hardly ever lead to smooth enregisterment. The claims of validity that come with their declarative character need an explanation to be accepted by others. These explanations make references to aspects of the speech event considered relevant by the person making the claim. They foreground those aspects of the social order that constitute the possibility of exclusion or denigration. In the case of Günther Oettinger, his critics pointed to the societal role of the speaker (as a representative of the EU), his nationality (being German) but also to the role of the audience (as representatives of a society that accepts racism) as well as the categories of race and gender as resources of disparagement and humiliation.

By analysing aspects of an invective event that are contested in follow-up communications, we can gain a deeper understanding of the interconnection of concepts of social order and invective practices, as well as of the implicit ethics applied by the actors. [21|22]

Conflicts on the invective dimensions of utterances often derive from the following aspects of language and its usage:

  1. The set of symbolic acts and linguistic forms that can be considered potentially invective is controversial. Does the German word Jude (Jew) convey a discriminatory connotation as the leading German dictionary Der Duden in its online edition claimed?4 Is it degrading to foreground the origin, faith, or sexual orientation of a person in a conversation? Is the attribution of characteristics such as “female”, “fat”, “disabled”, “Turkish”, or “bald” suitable for conveying group-specific negative stereotypes and thus devaluating and marginalizing a person? Does the phrase “What do you, as a woman, say to this?” express an innocent interest in a gender-specific perspective? Or does it express that for the inquirer the view of his counterpart is determined exclusively by her being a woman, whereby "female" is the other gender that deviates from the norm? Answers to these questions often depend on the conceptions of language and its power held by those involved in the debate. They thus refer to different understandings of the role of symbolic forms in a community.
  2. There is no consensus on the set of subject positions considered marginalised and the characteristics attributed to them. Which social groups are victims of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, classism, lookism, etc.? Can the ‘privileged’ be victims of discrimination at all? But also: does the invective potential of an utterance vary with the social role of the speaker or does only its content matter? And which subject positions allow participating in follow-up communications about the invective potential of an utterance? Debates about these questions are directly linked to conflicting conceptions of social order.
  3. Often contested in metainvective discourse is the extension attributed to an offending utterance. In other words: does the term X, when used in a situation towards a person, offend all to whom it may apply? Is calling someone a “stupid Pole”5 discriminatory against the Polish people or is it just an insult directed exclusively at the addressee? [22|23]
  4. Equally controversial is the claim of the compulsory nature of invective utterances. Does the performative effect occur in all cases in which an expression with an invective potential is used? Or do marginalized individuals have the agency to evade or subvert it? Is every use of the N-word racist, including citational, analytical, or forensic usages? Is disparagement humour racist, sexist, ableist, etc. or a way to trigger reflections on stereotypes and racism (cf. Kanzler 2019)?
  5. The claimed power of even indirect attributions is also often disputed. Is an utterance including a word with invective potential offensive even if no person it could offend is present? Is the occurrence of a potentially harmful word in a literary or historical work already harmful and should therefore be avoided or removed from libraries? Are even figurative expressions such as “the comparison limps” degrading because they link something weak and deficient with a disability? The deeper reason for such discussions is a dissent concerning the questions as to whether discrimination is limited to direct interactions or whether deeper, structural forms of discrimination shape society.

This list of controversial topics in meta-invective debates is of course not exhaustive. It nevertheless illustrates that in arguments for or against the invective potential of certain linguistic resources and practices the felicity conditions of invective speech acts also become an issue and with them notions of social and cultural order. By analysing the processes in which a society negotiates the invective dimension of practices we find implicit and sometimes explicit explanations on which claims of validity for the invective character of an utterance are based. These explanations make reference to conventional procedures (linguistic devices, communicative roles, conversational norms), situational aspects of utterance (form and context of utterance, speaker positions, subject positions, social structures), ethical postulates (modalities, intentions, licenses, social norms, and values, etc.) as well as conceptions of language and its power.

Metainvective acts trigger debates about the invective itself, which in many cases evokes debates about normality and social norms. Metainvective acts can therefore not only shift the boundaries between invective and non-invective forms and practices but also be a driving force for changing perceptions of cultural hegemony and social order (cf. Scharloth 2018). Invective practices provoking metainvective criticism can foster resonance and thus be a resource to put marginalised political positions on the agenda. [23|24]



Agha, Asif. 2004. Registers of language. In Alessandro Duranti (ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology. Oxford: Blackwell, 23–45.

Anderson, Joel. 1996. Translator's Introduction. In Axel Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflict. Cambridge, Mass.:  MIT Press, x–xxi.

Bonacchi, Silvia. 2017. Sprachliche Aggression beschreiben, verstehen und erklären. Theorie und Methodologie einer sprachbezogenen Aggressionsforschung. In Silvia Bonacchi (ed.), Verbale Aggression. Multidisziplinäre Zugänge zur verletzenden Macht der Sprache. Berlin: de Gruyter, 4–31.

Bousfield, Derek. 2008. Impoliteness in Interaction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Butler, Judith. 1997. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge.

Caffi, Claudia. 1994. Metapragmatics. In Ronald E. Asher & James M. Y. Simpson (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 2461–2466.

Elias, Norbert. 1991/1939. Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation. Soziogenetische und psychogenetische Untersuchungen. Erster Band. Wandlungen des Verhaltens in den weltlichen Oberschichten des Abendlandes. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.

Ellerbrock, Dagmar & Swen Steinberg. 2021. Invective Loops: How Shaming Migrants Shapes Knowledge Orders. In Migrant Knowledge, August 24, 2021,

Ellerbrock, Dagmar, Lars Koch, Sabine Müller–Mall, Marina Münkler, Joachim Scharloth, Dominik Schrage & Gerd Schwerhoff. 2018. Invektivität – Perspektiven eines neuen Forschungsprogramms in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften. In Kulturwissenschaftliche Zeitschrift, 1(1), 2–24. (doi:10.2478/kwg–2017–0001).

Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Goffman, Erving. 1956. Embarrassment and Social Organization. In American Journal of Sociology, 62 (3) (Nov., 1956), 264–271.

Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual. Essays in Face–to–face Behavior. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Herrmann, Steffen K.. 2011. Social Exclusion. Practices of Misrecognition. In Paulus Kaufmann, Hannes Kuch, Christian Neuhäuser & Elaine Webster (eds.), Humiliation, Degradation, Dehumanization. Human Dignity Violated. Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer, 133–149.

Hirsch, Hans Joachim. 1998. Grundfragen von Ehre und Beleidigung. In Rainer Zaczyk, Michael Köhler & Michael Kahlo (eds.), Festschrift für E. A. Wolff. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 125–151.

Honneth, Axel. 1995. The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts. Cambridge: Polity.

Hornscheidt, Lann. 2013. Der Hate Speech–Diskurs als Hate Speech: Pejorisierung als konstruktivistisches Modell zur Analyse diskriminierender Sprach_handlungen. In Jörg Meibauer (ed.), Hate Speech/Hassrede. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge des gleichnamigen Workshops, Mainz 2009. Linguistische Untersuchungen. Gießen: Gießener elektronische Bibliothek, 29–58. http://geb.uni– (18.4.2022).

Kallmeyer, Werner & Fritz Schütze. 1977. Zur Konstitution von Kommunikationsschemata der Sachverhaltsdarstellung. In Dirk Wegner (ed.), Gesprächsanalysen. Vorträge, gehalten anlässlich des 5. Kolloquiums des Instituts für Kommunikationsforschung und Phonetik, Bonn, 14.–16. Oktober 1976. Hamburg: Helmut Buske, 159–274.

Kallmeyer, Werner. 1979. “(Expressif) Eh ben dis donc, hein ‘pas bien’“ – Zur Beschreibung von Exaltation als Interaktionsmodalität. In Rolf Kloepfer (ed.), Bildung und Ausbildung in der Romania. Akten des Romanistentages 1977. München: Fink, 549–568.

Kanzler, Katja. 2019. (Meta–)Disparagement Humour: The Poetics and Politics of Mockery in the Sitcom Two Broke Girls. In Sara Hägi–Mead & Mi–Cha Flubacher (eds.), Taboo and Transgression. Dresden: Theoretische Beiträge des Zentrums für Integrationsstudien, 15–24.

Koch, Lars. 2021. Über artivistische Interventionen. Invektivität, Medien, Moral, In Albrecht Dröse, Marina Münkler & Antje Sablotny (eds.), Invektive Gattungen. Formen und Medien der Herabsetzung. Sonderheft der Kulturwissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift 1/2021, 247–266.

Krämer, Sybille. 2007. Sprache als Gewalt oder: Warum verletzen Worte? In Steffen Kitty Herrmann, Sybille Krämer & Hannes Kuch (eds.), Verletzende Worte. Die Grammatik sprachlicher Missachtung, Edition Moderne Postmoderne. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 31–48.

Kuch, Hannes. 2010. Austin – Performative Kraft und sprachliche Gewalt. In Hannes Kuch & Steffen Kitty Herrmann (eds.), Philosophien sprachlicher Gewalt. 21 Grundpositionen von Platon bis Butler. Weilerswist: Velbrück, 219–240.

Küpper, Georg. 2007. Strafrecht Besonderer Teil 1. Delikte gegen Rechtsgüter der Person und Gemeinschaft. Dritte, aktualisierte und ergänzte Auflage. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Link, Jürgen. 2006. Versuch über den Normalismus. Wie Normalität produziert wird. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Meibauer, Jörg (ed.). 2013. Hate Speech/Hassrede. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge des gleichnamigen Workshops, Mainz 2009. Linguistische Untersuchungen. Gießen: Gießener elektronische Bibliothek.

Meier, Simon. 2007. Beleidigungen. Eine Untersuchung über Ehre und Ehrverletzung in der Alltagskommunikation. Aachen: Skaker (= Essener Studien zur Semiotik und Kommunikationsforschung 20).

Rühl, Ulli F. H.. 2002. Die Semantik der Ehre im Rechtsdiskurs. In Kritische Justiz, 35 (2), 197–212.

Scharloth, Joachim. 2017. Hassrede und Invektivität als Gegenstand der Sprachwissenschaft und Sprachphilosophie: Bausteine zu einer Theorie des Metainvektiven. In Aptum, 2/2017, 116–132.

Scharloth, Joachim. 2018. Sprachliche Gewalt und soziale Ordnung: Metainvektive Debatten als Medium der Politik. In Fabian Klinker, Joachim Scharloth & Joanna Szczęk (eds.), Sprachliche Gewalt. Formen und Effekte von Hassrede, Pejorisierung und verbaler Aggression. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 7–28.

Silverstein, Michael. 2003. Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life. In Language & Communication, 23 (3–4), 193–229.

Spiegel, Carmen. 1995. Streit. Eine linguistische Untersuchung verbaler Interaktionen in alltäglichen Zusammenhängen. Tübingen: Narr.

Scheff, Thomas J.. 2000. Shame and the Social Bond: A Sociological Theory. In Sociological Theory 18 (1), 84–99.