Mining Multilingualism's Materiality: 'Re-representing' Linguistic Diversity in Presidential Biography


  • Anjali Pandey Salisbury University


Geolinguistics, language ideology, code-switching, multilingualism, biography


This paper engages in a “geo-semiotic” (Scollon and Scollon 2003) analysis of David Maraniss’s 2012 presidential biography, Barack Obama: The Story, and offers an alternative view to how the materiality of global multilingualism is utilized for enhanced literary effect in the hypercompetitive arena of 21st-century Presidential biographical writing. Utilizing an interdisciplinary paradigm of analysis (Block, Gray and Holborow 2012), the paper offers a detailed microlinguistic account of the visual and semiotic strategies employed by a Pulitzer-winning author, which appropriate multilingualism in a bid to peripherize both its use and its users. Through an astute use of polyglot etymologizing, translation, transliteration, and multilingual appropriation, Maraniss’s thematized multilingualism evinces a markettheoretic of asymmetrical linguistic valuation (Park and Wee 2012). Maraniss’s careful visual and verbal mapping of the linguistic journey of an American President seeking the unmarkedness of monolingualism over the markedness of multilingualism demonstrates how appropriations of multilingualism in material products, such as bestsellers, can be deployed to render multilingualism ‘immaterial.’

Author Biography

Anjali Pandey, Salisbury University

Pandey holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and an MA in TESOL from University of Illinois at Chicago, with a BA in Hons. Linguistics from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. Pandey's interests include Critical Discourse Analysis; Language and Power in Second Language Acquisition; Language and the Law; Rural ESOL Curricular models, Pedagogical linguistics; Semiotics and Diachronic linguistics, Language and Rhetoric, Sociolinguistics; Dialectology and Critical Literacy in children’s Media/Animated films.