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Does language control us?

How we do things to people with words
Language is sometimes viewed as a window on the mind, but it is equally a tool, a weapon, or perhaps most accurately: a remote control device. Are we controlled by language?

Event details
Date and time:
Thursday 6 June, 6 – 7.30pm
Venue: Wallace Theatre 
The University of Sydney (Camperdown/Darlington campus)
Entry: free and open to all with online registrations essential.

In this event, we bring together a linguist, psychologist, and political thinker to examine the ways in which speaking is more than saying something to people, but actually acting upon them.

Our speakers will consider questions such as: Does hate speech hurt our brains? Are words like a virus? Are we slaves to language? Can speaking be violence?

Join us for this fascinating conversation, to mark the launch of the Sydney Centre for Language Research (SCLR), a new multidisciplinary initiative at the University of Sydney. 

The speakers

Nick Enfield is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney and director of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre, and the Sydney Centre for Language Research. He is head of the Sydney Initiative for Truth (SIFT). His research on language, culture, cognition and social life is based on long term field work in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos.

His recent books include Natural Causes of LanguageDistributed Agency, and How We Talk. Nick has published widely in linguistics, anthropology, and cognitive science venues, and has written for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street Journal, and Science. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Royal Society of New South Wales, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Joanne Arciuli's research on child development spans linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, speech pathology, and education. Her research focuses on speech, language, literacy, and learning in typically developing children and those with developmental disabilities (e.g., autism; Down syndrome).

She has published widely in international journals including Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Cortex, Developmental Science, Cognition, Neuropsychologia, and Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. She is a stream leader in the Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP) at the University of Sydney and leads the Language, Brain, and Mind node of the Sydney Centre for Language Research.

Aim Sinpeng is a lecturer in comparative politics in the Department of Government and International Relations. She is an award-winning educator whose research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change.

She is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and a Thailand country coordinator for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Aim received a Teaching Excellence Award in 2017 and was named an 'Emerging Female Leader' in 2018 by the University of Sydney. She has examined popular movements against democracy in democratising states, particularly in Thailand. Aim is a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

Marc Stears is Director of the Sydney Policy Lab. Before arriving in Sydney in 2018, Marc had been Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford and Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, one of the UK’s largest think tanks, where his work often focused on deepening partnerships with community groups who are often overlooked in the policy process. Between 2012 and 2015, he was Chief Speechwriter to the UK Labour Party, a co-author of the party’s 2015 election manifesto and a member of the Party's general election steering committee. He has also advised a number of commercial and non-commercial organisations on strategic communications, these have included Coram Young Citizens, Channel 4 television, EY, GlaxoSmithKline, Let Us Learn and Linklaters.

In his academic work, Marc is an expert in democratic theory and the history of ideologies and social movements. He is the author or editor of many books including Demanding Democracy (Princeton, 2010) and The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies (Oxford, 2014). He has two books currently under contract, one focusing on the recent revival of socialism internationally and one on the way in which the art of Dylan Thomas, George Orwell and J. B. Priestley continues to shape the political imagination.

Event information

This event is free and open to all but online registration is essential.

Simply click the 'Register now' button or follow this link.

Entry to ticket holders will be prioritised and given on a first in, best dressed basis until the room reaches capacity. If an event is full, this may result in standing room or delayed admittance until an appropriate time.

We recommend early arrival to allow time for finding the venue and securing a seat to the event. Doors open 30 minutes before the advertised start time. 

If you could not register but would like to attend, you are welcome to join a stand-by queue on the night as seats may become available due to late cancellations. Please note, this is not guaranteed so you come at risk of non-admittance.

This venue provides wheelchair access and hearing infrared system.

Access requirements

If you have other access requirements or want more information, get in touch with us on 9351 2943 or email with 'Access | June 6 - Language' in the subject line at the earliest opportunity to allow us time to organise for any additional services in time for the event.

This event takes place at Wallace Theatre, enter via Science Road. 

There will be directional signage on the day leading to the theatre. You may also refer to the map on this page. 

Public Transport

To help you plan your trip, visit


The venue is roughly 30 minutes walk from Redfern station. Catch a train to Redfern station and take Lawson St up to Abercrombie St. At the roundabout, follow Codrington St up to Butlin Ave. Follow Butlin Ave through to the campus and up Eastern Ave towards the Quadrangle and turn into Science Road. Keep walking along there, venue will be on the left.


Buses to the University are readily available from Railway Square, Central Station (Broadway). Please use campus maps tool and tick the ‘State transit bus stops’ box under the ‘Amenities’ column to view all possible bus stops.

  • via Parramatta Road: Take one of these buses: 412, 436, 438, 439, 440, 461, 480, 483, m10, L38 or L39 and alight at the Footbridge on Parramatta Road. It's roughly 5 minute walk to venue.
  • via City Road: Take one of these buses: 352, 370, 422, 423, 426, 428, m30, L23 or L28 and alight at the footbridge before Butlin Avenue. Cross the road or go across the bridge and take Eastern Avenue towards the Quadrangle, and turn into Science Road. It's roughly 12 minute walk to venue.

There is some on-street parking around Forest Lodge and Glebe.

There is also paid parking available at Western Avenue Carpark. Head to the University's Parking page for more information about fees and opening hours.

Use the University Campus Maps tool to find out more details about parking and access areas: search for the 'Social Sciences Building'. 

Lead image credit: photo by Lauren Peng on Unsplash

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Wallace Theatre

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