Overstandin: Upscaling reading positions and rescaling texts/signs

Singh, Jaspal Naveel (2021). Overstandin: Upscaling reading positions and rescaling texts/signs. Applied Linguistics Review, 12(3) pp. 445–462.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2019-0138


Overstandin occurs when languagers upscale their reading positions to rescale the meanings of texts or signs according to their own intentions. While understanding is an important faculty for languagers and a central analytical category for applied linguistics research, it cannot fully grasp agency and creativity in complex languaging in postcolonial worlds. By focusing on processes of overstandin, this article shows how languagers assume an upscaled reading position from which they find opportunities to attack the form and function of a text/sign. Thereby they can destabilise the indexical equilibrium of a sign and show up the ambivalence of language. Understanding often erases this ambivalence. For this reason, the exposure of ambivalence through overstandin can be emancipative, especially in postcolonial thinking. I further argue that overstandin is emphasised in the dream-state – both conceptualised as a state of relative unconscious experiencing and a wish, desire, aspiration for an emancipated future. In the dream-state the signifier stands over the signified. Such processes of overstandin pose challenges to applied linguistics, which continues to rely on wake-state understanding as a central analytical category for its gaze and its methods and thereby replicates hegemonic knowledge-power structures that have been put in place during Enlightenment, colonialism and current global modernities. This article suggests that an account of processes of overstandin as an agentive meaning-making of the epistemic hinterlands of the postcolonial, could rehabilitate ambivalence as an anthropological category for our discipline. My detour via dream-states is merely a rhetoric of the argument presented here and it should not be assumed that I suggest that applied linguists have to turn to mysticism or dream analysis in order to account for overstandin, scaling and indexical ambivalence. The oneiric rhetoric itself is an overstandin, which aims to challenge common-sense empiricism in our discipline.

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