IALSP Task Force


2016-2018 Task Force: Communication and Transnational Mobilities

Alina Schartner & Tony Young
Newcastle University, UK

Cross-border mobility is a defining and contentious feature of life in the 21st century. There are currently more than 200 million ‘international migrants’ in the world, a figure that includes refugees, asylum seekers and those described as ‘economic’ migrants. Motivations for mobilities vary. Some cross borders voluntarily to pursue an education, or to improve their economic situation and seek better material circumstances. Others are on the move against their will to escape poverty or armed conflict. Cross-border mobility can be stimulating and rewarding, but it can also be an uncertain, even dangerous, experience that involves learning new skills, coping with an unfamiliar environment, and negotiating complex interpersonal and intergroup relations.

This IALSP Task Force will explore the interpersonal and intergroup dimensions behind global mobility statistics. It will explore, from a social psychological perspective, the intercultural and communicative processes involved in cross-border mobility, and their effects on mobile individuals (past and present) and on the societies that host them. The papers embrace both theoretical and methodological perspectives, and feature cutting-edge empirical research on a range of mobile groups, including migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers.

Cross-border mobility raises many questions of an intercultural and social-psychological communicative nature. Foci of this Task Force will therefore include:

  • Socio-cognitive processes in transnational migration decision-making
  • ‘Non-western’ perspectives on migration and its effects on individuals and societies
  • Relationships between local law and its enforcers and migrant ‘others’
  • The global mobility divide and migrants’ rights
  • Identity work and constructions of the self among migrants and hosts
  • Language rights, language contact, language change
  • Methodological and ethical issues in researching this phenomenon
  • Research methodological for hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups (e.g. refugees, asylum seekers, foreign domestic workers)
  • Power relations between researchers and those being researched

A Task Force of this kind comes at a critical point in time. Brexit and the continuous arrival of refugees on Europe’s shores is leading to resentment of internationally mobile individuals among some of those who host them. A similar dynamic is visible in the US presidential election campaign in slogans such as ‘Let’s build a wall’. It is therefore timely for social psychologists and communication scholars to focus attention on how mobile individuals interpret their interpersonal and intercultural experiences as hosts or migrants, and how they can be supported so that these experiences can become rewarding.

The Task Force will comprise an international team of established and early-career researchers from the fields of applied linguistics, (intercultural) communication, and social psychology. Its outcomes will be of interest to researchers and scholars across disciplines, as well as to professionals working with cross-culturally mobile groups, and will feed into debates raging worldwide on the mechanisms and consequences of transnational migration.


Purpose of Task Force

The aim of a Task Force is to identify an important issue in language and social psychology research and bring together a group of scholars to highlight the current strengths, gaps and limitations in that area through a language and social psychological lens.  Scholars may focus on a new or underdeveloped research domain, or select a topic that has in the past received a great deal of attention.  The IALSP Task Force forum provides an opportunity for scholars to tackle difficult language and social psychology (LSP) issues and meet new communication challenges. The Task Force usually puts together five or more papers on the chosen topic.



A Task Force is chosen through a competitive selection process. Submissions of a Task Force proposal should be no longer than two pages in length and should clearly identify the Task Force topic, along with a rationale, and should include clear aims and goals. Once the submission has been approved by an IALSP Working Committee, the successful Task Force proposal author(s) invite communication scholars to write the papers outlined in the submission (either personally or through a more general Call for Papers).  There are normally five papers (but sometimes more) per Task Force and each paper should focus on a different aspect of the topic.  Completion date for papers is May of the year of the biannual IALSP conference (ICLASP).


Task Force Outcomes

Authors of the chosen set of papers will be invited to present their research in a special symposium at International Conference on Language and Social Psychology.  Members of the Task Force will also have an opportunity to present their findings in the IALSP symposium at International Communication Association conference the same year. There is a small amount of financial support provided to the Task Force Chair/s to assist with conference costs.

In the past, the Journal of Language and Social Psychology has published a number of outputs arising from the Task Force as a special issue.  This is not officially part of the Task Force proceedings or responsibilities for those involved, but is a possibility for Task Forces, if convenor(s) have a coherent package after selecting papers from the abstracts submitted.


Previous Task Forces

  • The Language and Social Psychology of Adolescence
  • Language and Computer Technology
  • Language and Discrimination
  • Language in Health Communication
  • Endangered Languages
  • Language and Tourism
  • Science Communication