Professor Helen Sauntson Inaugural Lecture

De Grey Lecture Theatre, York St John University
Event Time
21 February 2019 6.00pm

Category Language & Linguistics

York St John University, Prof Helen Sauntson will be presenting her Inaugural Lecture on Thursday 21 Febuary 2019


Title: Language, Love and Social Justice


In this inaugural lecture, Prof Helen Sauntson explores some of the ways in which language and linguistic analysis is central to the project of social justice with a focus on LGBT+ perspectives. To do so, Helen draws on recent research on language and sexuality in schools and, the discursive construction of in/equalities in higher education contexts. Particular attention is paid to how silence can operate as a speech act which functions to marginalise and oppress LGBT+ (and other) identities in educational contexts. Linking to the ‘peace, reconciliation and activism’ theme of 2019 LGBT History Month, the lecture examines how and why there have been (and continue to be) peculiarly marked discursive silences around ‘love’, and other affectual processes, in relation to LGBT+ social justice research. Helen proposes that one way to contribute to a discursive shift towards greater social justice is to offer up linguistic alternatives which foreground love, ethics, humanitarianism and justice and, in so doing, construct new discursive realities not only for LGBT+ communities and allies but also for those who continue to oppose them. She exemplifies how this may be achieved by drawing from work in applied linguistics, including new and emerging sub-fields of applied linguistics which incorporate creative, cultural and performing arts. Finally, there is a consideration of how the lessons learnt from LGBT+ perspectives on language, love and in/equalities may inform wider social justice research not just in applied linguistics, but across disciplines.


Helen is Professor of English Language and Linguistics at York St John University. Her research areas are: language, gender and sexuality; gender and sexuality in education; and language in education. As a former teacher, Helen maintains an interest in classroom interaction and her research in this area focuses on how gender and sexuality identities are constructed through linguistic interaction in classroom settings in schools and universities. Another area of her research focuses on language and in/equalities in higher education. She has published numerous book chapters and articles in these areas and has authored or co-authored four books – Academic Irregularities: Language and Neoliberalism in Higher Education (Routledge, 2019), Language, Sexuality and Education (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Approaches to Gender and Spoken Classroom Discourse (Palgrave, 2012) and New Perspectives on Language and Sexual Identity (Palgrave, 2007). Helen has also co-edited three books – Language, Sexualities and Desires: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Palgrave, 2007), of Gender and Language Research Methodologies (Palgrave, 2008) and Global Perspectives and Key Debates in Sex and Relationships Education (Palgrave, 2016). She is co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Language, Gender and Sexuality book series.


Event Timings: 

17.50 Doors open

18.00 Lecture commences

19.15 Post lecture drinks reception (all lecture attendees are welcome)


If you have any queries about this event or any University event please contact the Events Office on

t: 01904 876654 or e:

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