to be someone in a language

Research output: Book/ReportBook


When Hannah Arendt settled in the United States in the 1940s, she lamented the loss not only of her homeland but also her mother tongue, the German language. For Arendt she had been someone 'in' a language not just 'with' a language. This unique choice of preposition, 'in' and not 'with', forms the title of this book and testifies to centrality of language in our lives. Language is our DNA in effect. It may seem strange then to publish a book on language through a series of images and photographs but in many ways life is just that strangeness. We juxtapose the linguistic with the visual and interpret the visual through the linguistic. Life is a constant shift between the on-stage and off-stage performance which this book enacts. In some way the paradox is always with us even though we like to think we can see through it. The paradox is left firmly in place here for you to appreciate the beauty of the duality as it stands—it won’t always be there for you. The book is a photo essay of fifty three sumptuous spreads in full colour narrated and interpreted through a series of inspirational quotes from the author’s recent work 'It’s Language Stupid: unravelling the DNA of the mind'—a defence of nonrepresentational linguistic idealism. The quotes, either in original form or suitably modified, all attest to key junctures in the passages which are deserving of further consideration: a reminder that we need to get off the bus, so to speak, and look around (there is someone else with us on our journey). In some cases, quotes from prominent philosophers and idealists are presented. For each quote on the verso folio, an image and arrangement on the recto is presented. The spread is meant to be taken as one and further subdivision should not be contemplated. Well-known artists such as Van Gogh and William Blake are presented along with less familiar names such as Hiroaki Takahashi and the inimitable RANT 73. A companion website supports the interpretation and exemplification of the spreads with selected reprints from the author’s work, links and credits.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEssential Tremor
Number of pages115
ISBN (Print)979-8748837569
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2021


  • linguistic idealism
  • photo essay
  • art
  • philosophy of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Language and Linguistics


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