Abstracts for Sustainable Pluralism: Linguistic and Cultural Resilience in Multiethnic Societies
Bamana, Gaby. Practices, Texts, and Objects. Transmission of meaning and cultural resilience in post-socialist Mongolia
In 1992, Mongolia voted a new constitution ending seventy years of soviet style socialist regime. A few years after this democratic revolution, the country experienced an unprecedented cultural revival as people wanted to get rid of the symbols of the past regime and reconnect with the ‘Mongol tradition’ (ulamjilal). As a result, the years after democratization witnessed a revival in festivals, language script, religious practices (Shamanism and Buddhism), use of the name of the ancestors (Chinggis Khan)…etc. The process of tradition revival implies transmission of meanings (ulamjilakh) from the time of the ancestors to legitimize authenticity of practices and uniqueness of identity.
However, one should bear in mind that the socialist regime projected to transform Mongolia into a soviet style modern society (e.g. ridden of pastoral nomadism, aristocracy and feudalism), and the socialist propaganda particularly aimed at converting the people of Mongolia into engaged socialist artisans. Therefore, the post-socialist cultural revival that displayed heterogeneity of a complex cultural identity among citizens of Mongolia invites discussions on the process of cultural transmission and resilience that sustains such diversity in the context of controlled homogenization.
Using a case study (tea culture), I examine the process of cultural transmission (culture defined as meaning), through a description of ordinary practices, and everyday use texts and objects that construct meanings (culture) as well as enhance and sustain diversity. Furthermore, the description of everyday practices, texts, and objects clarifies the connection between different layers of symbolic processes that make up culture, and thus explaining cultural subversion and resilience as processes of vertical sustainability. Furthermore, I consider encounters between local communities (e.g. summer festivals) as a means of horizontal sustainability because exchange of practices emphasizes differentiation rather than similarities in the context of diversity.
In conclusion, I suggest that cultural exchange festivals among different ethnic groups in Mongolia are far different from cultural codification initiated by the Mongolian government in order to preserve cultural diversity and control cultural revival. Controlled cultural performances lack ‘the strategy’ that connects practices to a group identity (or performer’s identity) which is at play in cultural exchanges between local communities.
Bender, Mark. Voicing Tradition in Flux: Contemporary Poetry in the East Asian-Southeast Asian Interface
Contemporary poetry in an imagined transnational region running along the borders of China, from Mongolia to Southeast Asia and Northeast India is the subject of this presentation. The focus is on the works of local and ethnic poets whose poems explore cultural traditions that are in flux in reaction to rapid economic, environmental, and social changes. The vast territory in which these poetries are embedded, is in part called Zomia by some geographers, though cultural influences and convergent social and environmental factors may account for some of the similarities in theme and treatment of subject matter in poems written in an even vaster region of steppe and upland montane areas. Works of specific poets writing in both native tongue and national “common languages” will be examined within local contexts in hopes of discerning and understanding larger trends and more localized phenomena within the region and elsewhere. The poems are authored by well-known and lesser-known poets from diverse ethnic groups in Southwest China, Northeast India, Burma/Myanmar, and Mongolia. Attention will be given to the role of imagery of traditional folk culture and the pre-Industrial natural environment in the poetry, understanding that many of the authors, though presently urbanites, have backgrounds in rural cultures now caught within the rapid dynamics of change.
Burdin, Rachel Steindel. (Post)vernacular Yiddish in Krakow
Yiddish has been described as being, in some communities, a post-vernacular language; that is, a language whose function is now primarily symbolic, rather than communicative (Shandler 2006). This study examines the extent to which this is true in Krakow, Poland, particularly the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, through the use of language by local businesses and the Jewish Community Center on various online forums, including Facebook, Twitter, and institutional websites.
Several local businesses, mainly restaurants, many owned by non-Jews, use Yiddish, Hebrew, and faux-Hebraic typography in their names, signage, websites, and Facebook pages, to "evok[e] the traditions of Jewish Kazimierz" and ultimately creating a linguistic landscape in which Yiddish indexes Jewishness, and specifically, the Jewishness of pre-war Jewish life which has vanished. The feeling is one of nostalgia, which is explicitly shown by the name of one of the more popular restaurants, Dawno Temu na Kazimierzu (“Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz”). However, the local Jewish Community Center (JCC) has, for the most part, rejected this narrative, preferring to portray the Jewish community as vibrant and living, and making use of English, Hebrew, and Polish to show the JCC as being forward-looking, with limited use of Yiddish. In addition, it appears that, in the JCC, Yiddish is sustained in a vernacular, non-fragmented way, through their sponsorship of a Yiddish club and Yiddish language classes. In Kazimierz, then, like other linguistic landscapes, the same language, Yiddish, can index different meanings for different viewers: for the businesses, Yiddish evokes nostalgia and a lost community; for the JCC, a past to be respected, but to be moved on from.
Carmichael, Katie. The resilience of 'home': language use in post-Katrina Greater New Orleans
The resilience of a speech community can be tested by natural and man-made circumstances. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, both had a hand in what would become the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. In the aftermath of the storm, many residents of Greater New Orleans struggled to reconnect with their homes and rebuild, while others started anew in different communities. In Chalmette, a blue-collar suburban town outside of New Orleans, nearly fifty percent of the population was displaced, and would not return. A critical mass of these Chalmette residents relocated to the upper middle class suburbs of the Northshore, across Lake Pontchartrain (Lasley 2012). Here, they were singled out as “Chalmatians,” a term signifying their social class status as blue-collar workers, but also their speech patterns, which are locally marked. The process of returning to rebuild or relocating to unfamiliar—and in many ways unfriendly—terrain has tested the resilience of not only the individuals themselves, but also of the cultural and linguistic heritage tied to their pre-Katrina “homes.” Since language use is one way of expressing a link to place (Johnstone 2004; Carmichael 2014), I examined use of locally marked “Chalmatian” linguistic features in the speech of returners and relocators in Greater New Orleans to better understand speakers’ shifting relationships with their pre- and post-Katrina settings. I bolstered this analysis with an examination of commentary from participants about their lives after the storm, to determine how the linguistic and the cultural interacted in this context. My analysis revealed that while there were strong rifts between returners and relocators, this distinction was not reflected in language use—returners and relocators did not use linguistic features tied to Chalmette in differing rates. I argue that this patterning reflects the potential resilience of place-linked language in a situation in which enclave dialect speakers being involuntary displaced, unlike in cases of migration (Hazen & Hamilton 2008) or eventual exposure to outsiders (Picone 1997; Wolfram & Schilling-Estes 1997). As such, this study contributes to our understanding of the ways linguistic choices can come into play in situations of displacement and trauma.
Fitzgerald, Kati. Tibetan Opera as Intangible Cultural Heritage: Ownership and Agency
UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage, along with other features, as, ”the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts [sic] and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities … recognize as part of their cultural heritage” (UNESCO, 2003). In the case of plural societies in which one ethnic/linguistic group dominates discourse with foreign bodies, what happens when that governing body is disparate from the creators and performers of the oral traditions they try to preserve? Inscribed into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, lhamo (Tibetan opera) is misrepresented in media and descriptions on the UNESCO website, as well as in material produced in the name of the Intangible Cultural Heritage project in China. Assuming that ignorance (difficulties of translation, regional differences, travel restriction, etc), rather than opportunism, plays the main role in dissemination of misinformation on lhamo, how can we encourage constructive dialogue between the ethnic minority performer, the ethnic majority preserver and the worldwide audience? More importantly, if that dialogue does not occur, what is the next step for bodies such as UNESCO? The main question scholars in the field continue to ask is: is it better for Tibetan opera (along with other forms of Tibetan art, performance and handicraft) to face bans or restrictions (and thereby risk ‘extinction’) or to be modified by outside forces in order to fit into a broader picture of culture in the PRC? This presentation will elucidate some of the misrepresentations of the Intangible Cultural Heritage project and discuss the complexity that arises from preservation projects that attempt to access minority areas and traditions that are not fully owned by the “communities” themselves.
UNESCO. (2003 3-11). Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Retrieved 2014 18-7 from UNESCO: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/convention
Grenoble, Lenore A. Sustainability in the Arctic: Language and Place in Greenland
Language vitality is an issue of utmost importance in the Arctic. An indigenous-driven project, the Arctic Indigenous Language Initiative (arcticlanguages.com), is working to reverse language shift through active engagement and collaboration throughout the circumpolar region. The Arctic is undergoing radical climate change and equally radical cultural disruption. Language shift is an integral part of cultural disruption in this region: of the 50 or so indigenous languages spoken in the circumpolar Arctic, current assessments indicate that all but Kalaallisut (Greenlandic; iso-639 kal) are endangered. As Permanent Participants on the Arctic Council, Arctic indigenous peoples are perhaps uniquely organized within the world today in a way that potentially empowers them to take action.
The present talk focuses on one project that is connected to this larger effort, a study of landscape, spatial relations and place names in Greenland. The official and majority language of the country is Kalaallisut, an Aleut-Yupik-Inuit language that is part of a language-dialect continuum stretching from Siberia, across Alaska and Canada to Greenland. It is a polysynthetic language with a very complicated morphological system of both inflectional and derivational suffixes.
Existing research on the locality of place in Greenland reveals a deep connection between the Inuit and their physical environment, identifying landscape as “memoryscape” (Nuttall 1991), permeated with cultural knowledge, narrative, and experience. Out of such a relationship with the land arises a rich framework of spatial understanding embedded with environmental and sociocultural knowledge within the language and speech patterns. Studies of Inuit place names and landscape (e.g. Alia 2006, Collignon 2006 for Canadian Inuit; Holton 2011 for Alaskan Inuit) have emphasized the multidimensional nature of these place names, and the culturally specific landscape categorization encoded in landscape terms.
At their request, linguists from the University of Chicago have been collaborating with Oqaasileriffik (the Greenland Language Secretariat) to document and describe the interrelations between language, space and place in Greenland. Both toponyms and landscape terms interact with the spatial orientation system in Greenland, a coastal-based system (Fortescue 1988). In this talk I present a theoretical ontology for these spatial relations and demonstrate how they allow speakers to make reference to specific locations in the environment as socioculturally inhabited and meaningful, and discuss the position of this project in larger efforts aimed at language and cultural sustainability.
Alia, Valerie. 2006. Names and Nunavut. Culture and identity in the Inuit homeland. Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books.
Collignon, Béatrice. 2006. Inuit place names and sense of place. In Pamela Stern & Lisa Stevenson, eds., Critical Inuit Studies. An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography, 187-205. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Denny, J. Peter. 1982. Semantics of the Inuktitut (Eskimo) spatial deictics. International Journal of American Linguistics 48/4. 359-384.
Fortescue, Michael. 1988. Eskimo orientation systems. Meddelelser om Grønland 11.
Holton, Gary. 2011. Differing conceptualizations of the same landscape. The Athabaskan and Eskimo language boundary in Alaska. In D.M. Mark, A.G. Turk, N. Burenhult & D. Stea, eds., Landscape in language, 225-37. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hamans, Camiel. A Brussels perspective on language
The European Union ability for legislative acts and other initiatives on language policy is based legally in the provisions in the Treaties of the European Union. Therefore in the EU, language policy is the responsibility of member states and the European Union does not have a common "language policy."
However, based on the principle of "subsidiarity", European Union institutions play a supporting role in this field, promoting cooperation between the member states and promoting the European dimension in the member states language policies, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the member states.
Although there is no common European language policy, the European Institutions accept all national languages as working languages of the EU. In the beginning, 1958, there were only four languages, French, German, Italian and Dutch. Now there are 24. Actually this a clear form of language policy.
The reason for this policy is simple: all EU citizens have the right to access all EU documents in the official language of the EU, and should be able to write to the EU and receive a response in their own language. Moreover, all citizens of the EU, whether they speak foreign languages or not, are eligible for the European Parliament and must be given the chance to use their own language doing their job in the Parliament.
Why the European Union did not choose for one (or two or three) working language(s) follows from the basic ideas and fundamentals of the Union.
Therefore in this presentation a short overview of the history of European cooperation and integration will be presented to illustrate why the EU still stresses the national identity of its citizens.
Within the EU not only national languages are spoken but also regional and minority languages. Although this is not the core business of the EU – this is more the field and the responsibility of the Strasbourg based Council of Europe – the EU cooperates with the Council of Europe and stimulates the care for and the use of these languages , stressing the diversity of its citizens in all respects. In this presentation it will be explained how the Charter works and how the application of this treaty may be useful for the protection and promotion of endangered languages.
Finally the EU is concerned about the social and economical negative effects of monolingualism and that is why the EU stimulates actively the teaching and learning of foreign languages, not hoping that one of the internationally widely used languages will become thé language of the EU, but to help the citizens of the Union to communicate with each other more easily and to foster mutual understanding, which is one of the main aims of this community of values that calls itself European Union.
Brian D. Joseph. Parameters of language sustainability
It has been estimated that there have been between 31,000 and 600,000 human languages ever spoken in all of human existence. Whichever estimate one takes, a comparison with the roughly 7,000 languages currently spoken means that considerably more languages have died out than have survived. This fact raises the important question of what makes a language viable and able to survive. Restating this key question in the terms of interest in this conference, we can ask:
What makes a language sustainable (i.e., able to maintain itself over some stretch of time)?
What makes a language resilient (i.e., able to bounce back, roll with the punches)?
In this presentation, drawing largely on the case-study of the varieties of the Greek language found today in southern Albania, I explore the various factors that go into making a language sustainable and resilient.
Kantarovich, Jessica. Russian Endangerment in Alaska: Challenges in Language Documentation and Reconstruction
The settlement of Alaska by Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries left a lasting impression on the region, notably in the form of dialects of Russian still spoken by the descendants of these original settlers. The most well-documented of these dialects is Ninilchik Russian, a variety with only a handful of remaining speakers living in the village of Ninilchik on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The documentation and revitalization of a language with so few speakers presents some unique challenges, particularly in accurately reconstructing the language for future generations and ensuring its long-term sustainability.
Russian in Alaska underwent two distinct periods of contact-induced change, the effects of which can be seen in Ninilchik Russian. The first of these is the period of Russian settlement, generally thought of as having begun in the 1740s and ended in 1867. During this time, Russian settlers—most of them men who came to Alaska in search of economic opportunity—had extensive contact with many of the indigenous peoples of the region, in particular the Aleuts. While Russian continued to be robustly spoken during this time, the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867 marked a significant change in the language’s relative prestige. Under American control, steps were taken to eradicate traces of the Russian culture in Alaska, including the Russian language. As a result of this period, contact with English has had a more profound impact on Alaskan Russian, producing deviations from Standard Russian phonology, morphology, and syntax.
Ninilchik Russian is a good example of a case where documentation efforts may have been initiated too late to derive a complete linguistic system. The best efforts at documentation to date have come from Moscow linguists Mira Bergelson and Andrej Kibrik, who have been working with the speakers to develop a dictionary of Ninilchik Russian. The remaining speakers are elderly and have a low proficiency in conversational Russian, so it is often challenging to determine whether a unique linguistic feature is due to healthy language change or is a symptom of attrition. Furthermore, with so few speakers, any idiolectal variation is difficult to account for. In this talk I examine these issues and the long-term viability of efforts to create a sustainable language community when attrition is already well-advanced.
Lesho, Marivic. Language maintenance and shift in the Philippine creole context
The Philippines is home to over 180 languages (Lewis et al. 2014), including three varieties of Chabacano, a group of Philippine-Spanish creole languages that formed during the colonial period. Two of the varieties are spoken in Ternate and Cavite City in the Manila Bay region, and one is spoken in Zamboanga City and surrounding areas of western Mindanao. The creoles formed under different sociohistorical circumstances, and today they have different levels of vitality. Cavite Chabacano is severely endangered, and Ternate Chabacano is threatened but relatively stable (Lesho & Sippola 2013); they are both spoken alongside Tagalog/Filipino and English, the official languages of the country. In contrast, Zamboanga Chabacano is spoken alongside several other languages (Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Tausug, Tagalog/Filipino, English, etc.). It has become a lingua franca of the region and now receives strong institutional support.
Based on data from fieldwork and online surveys (Lesho & Sippola 2013, Sippola & Lesho, in review), I examine the factors that account for why Cavite and Ternate Chabacano are endangered and Zamboanga Chabacano has been better sustained. These factors include population numbers, migration, proximity to Manila, identification with national culture, education policy, national language policy, and socioeconomic pressures. I describe how the different social and historical factors that led to the formation of each Chabacano variety still influence their level of vitality today. In addition, I address the question of whether the endangerment of the Ternate and Cavite Chabacano languages equates with the endangerment of the Ternateño and Caviteño cultures. Most language documentation work by Western scholars has been based on the idea that language loss means culture loss, but this assumption does not map neatly onto multilingual societies, as Childs et al. (2014) showed for Sub-Saharan Africa. I show that this concept is also difficult to apply in the Philippine context, where multilingualism and language mixing have been the norm since before European contact.
Childs, Tucker, Jeff Good, & Alice Mitchell. 2014. Beyond the ancestral code: Towards a model of sociolinguistic language documentation.
Lesho, Marivic & Eeva Sippola. 2013. The sociolinguistic situation of the Manila Bay Chabacano-speaking communities. Language Documentation & Conservation 7. 1-30.
Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, & Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2014. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
Sippola, Eeva & Marivic Lesho. In review. Folk perceptions of variation among the Chabacano creoles.
Liu, Morgan. Sustainable Community via Stately Claim in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.
How could the economic and cultural flourishing of an ethnic community be enabled within a state that is alternately indifferent or hostile? Ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan, citizens of this Central Asian republic since the Soviet collapse of 1991, have felt discrimination against them intensify after ethnic Kyrgyz became dominant in the independent state, and especially with the uptick in an exclusivist Kyrgyz nationalism after the so-called Tulip Revolution in 2005. Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks are excluded from full participation in their country’s political and economic arenas for being of the wrong ethnicity, and are excluded from independent Uzbekistan for being of the wrong citizenship.
Some Kyrgyzstani Uzbek leaders responded to this dilemma by building a set of institutions in the southern Kyrgyzstani cities of Osh and Jalalabat during the 1990s and 2000s, which worked in cultural development, charity, media, education, medicine, tourism, religion, and limited political mobilization. The centerpieces in Jalalabat were a university and press, as well as funding the construction of a Friday mosque and drama theater. These institutions created and channeled financial capital and human talent, providing services, resources, jobs, and a sense of communal purpose for the underserved Uzbek community in Kyrgyzstan.
How was this ambitious collective project made possible? I argue that these Kyrgyzstani Uzbek elites assumed a delicately balanced posture that simultaneously labored to benefit local Uzbeks, while claiming to work for the common societal good regardless of ethnicity. These Kyrgyzstani Uzbek projects played with Soviet discourses of a panethnic progressive future, independent Kyrgyzstan’s civic nationalism, and Islamic notions of societal justice in positioning itself as loyal Kyrgyzstani institutions. By doing so, however, these Uzbek leaders were implicitly taking on the prerogative of securing the commonweal above particularist interests, a function that the modern state normally reserves for itself (what James Ferguson calls “encompassment”), thereby critiquing the Kyrgyzstani state’s lack of impartiality. Although their efforts were suddenly and violently ended by the 2010 interethnic conflagration in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Uzbek leaders crafted a relatively sustainable model of ethnic community for two decades by claiming this stately prerogative to provide for the common good.
Low, John N. The Emergence of Pokagon’s Band of Potawatomi Indians
and Their Strategies to Avoid Removal
The story of the Pokagon Potawatomi reflects a concerted effort to retain an indigenous individual and community identity while promoting their inclusion into mainstream non-Native society. In 1833, Leopold Pokagon was able to negotiate an amendment to the Treaty of Chicago that allowed Pokagon's Band of Potawatomi to remain on the land of their ancestors, while almost all the rest of the Potawatomi in the area were removed west of the Mississippi River by the federal government as a part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Through a strategy that emphasized their Christianization, temperance, and involvement in the local economy as wage laborers, the Pokagon Potawatomi successfully avoided removal from their homelands. Today the tribe that bears Leopold Pokagon's name continues as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, a federally recognized Indian Nation, with almost 5000 citizens. The Pokagon Potawatomi tribal headquarters are located in Dowagiac, Michigan with a satellite office in South Bend, Indiana, and they retain a ten county service area in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.
McSweeney, Kendra. The Limits to Socioecological Resilience in eastern Honduras
The Tawahka of eastern Honduras currently number some 2,000 people, of whom approximately half speak Tawahka (a Mayangna language). Throughout the 20th century, Tawahka exhibited resilience along multiple fronts. When their population was reduced by smallpox to 100 in the 1930s, women who made exogamous marriages to non-Tawahka ensured linguistic continuity by speaking only Tawahka to their children. In the 1990s, the group invested heavily in bilingual education to ensure linguistic persistence in a region where the lingua franca is Miskitu and where basic education was delivered exclusively in Spanish. The concentration of cocaine trafficking routes through Tawahka territory since ~2006, however, is severely testing the Tawahka’s ‘resilience resources.’ This paper explores how the ‘mere’ relay of an illicit good through a remote area is undermining linguistic and cultural solidarity in surprising ways.
Mitsch, Jane. The sustainability of linguistic plurality in the Senegambian borderlands
Despite its dramatic history of colonial exploitation and urban migration, West Africa is noted for its enduring multilingualism, showing few signs of a decline in linguistic diversity. While Walker and Salt provide useful ways to characterize the resilience of a system, part of understanding the resilience of a system in part means defining (or bounding) the system in question. When linguists discuss issues of language sustainability and multilingualism, they often adopt the perspective of a dominant geopolitical system, the nation-state. While this system is an obvious and easy-to-reference one, it is not always relevant for questions of linguistic plurality and sustainability. From the nation-state perspective, borders are peripheral parts of the system. The multiethnic, multilingual borderland between The Gambia and Senegal, however, is a system in and of itself, where several different and overlapping systems are at play: local, regional, ethnolinguistic, and national systems overlap and intersect within the same sociolinguistic community. It represents a system with no geopolitical status, but that can foster linguistic pluralism and help linguists better understand the nature of cultural systems that allow multilingualism to flourish.
Mufwene, Salikoko S. Socioeconomic Structure and Language Vitality: Differences between Black Africa and the Western World
As much as colonization and globalization have been blamed for the current accelerated rate of language endangerment and loss, the latter processes have remained local, from an evolutionary perspective. They have been negligible in current Black Africa, because the latter have typically been colonized on the exploitation rather than on the settlement model, have remained in the periphery of world-wide economic globalization since the late 19th century, and have relied primarily on informal economy, which shows a low glocalization index. Informal economy is unlike modern formal economic systems, which are marked by an extensive degree of interdependencies, which have favored using only one language in all sectors, have marginalized those segments of the population that do not use the dominant language, and have fostered monolingualism when socioeconomic integration is also possible.
Although the European colonization of Africa also introduced the modern notion of nation-state, which has lumped together or split arbitrarily ethnolinguistic groups that had hitherto had different government styles and used to live as mere neighboring polities, it likewise introduced a population structure that is marked by the following characteristics: 1) An important gap obtains between, on the one hand, the little-modified indigenous socioeconomic structures of the rural areas, where the majority of the populations have continued to live and, on the other hand, those of the urban centers, which are influenced by European capitalist practices (though these have indigenized). 2) Indigenous populations are now stratified according to level of education and economic affluence, although these two are no longer correlated today. 3) A new population structure has arisen in which the practice of European languages is associated with administrative and economic activities introduced by European colonization, whereas indigenous languages continue to be used in domains that are traditionally African. 4) This communicative division of labor has favored multilingualism between the European colonial languages and indigenous languages in the case of highly educated and economically affluent citizens (for various social reasons) or simple multilingualism in indigenous languages (depending on one’s geographic mobility and/or contacts with people of different ethnolinguistic backgrounds). 5) There is tolerance for cultural, hence linguistic, diversity, although economic and political disenfranchising of population majorities has led to occasional derision of usage of the European colonial languages. 6) Popular culture has thrived in indigenous languages and has served as the medium in which the economically and politically marginalized voice their frustrations.
Thus, the following question that arises: Why should we speak of language rights when these can be subsumed by human rights in relation to economic development and to political integration and empowerment? In any case, the Black African evolutionary linguistic trajectory has been quite different from that of the West and calls for questioning a uniform conception of colonization and economic globalization and how these processes affect language vitality.
I will discuss the shifting keywords or slogan-concepts that have influenced public debate and policy initiatives relating to disempowered populations and their cultural repertoires. I argue that all derive ultimately from the nineteenth century evolutionist concept of "survival." On the one hand, they reflect a process of euphemization, with each new term fleeing the stigma of its predecessor. On the other, they index a growing lack of societal confidence in the narrative of modern progress, as well as decreasing institutional willingness to assume responsibility for the collective wellbeing.
Shao, Wenyuan. Traditional Yi Language and Culture in Contemporary Society: A Field Trip Report from Southwest China
This presentation is based on my three-month adventure in China this summer break. The field trip site is located in Guizhou Province. Guizhou is a manifestation of southwest China’s cultural dynamics: home to 49 out of 56 officially sanctioned ethnic groups, three main world religions, and two major local beliefs. I specifically want to look at the Yi, which, in terms of population, is one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Guizhou as well as in China. I arrived at Bijie, a prefecture-level city, in the middle of cold May and lived with local people for about three months. In this presentation I focus on the ways by which Yi people respond to modernization. In the sphere of everyday life, public festival, scholarly publication and governmental move, traditional culture as indigenous resources were utilized in the struggle of identity crisis, cultural survival and poverty alleviation. Questions in my mind include: What kinds of people are involved in preserving traditional Yi language and culture? How do those people treat me as an outsider (or as a junior female scholar)? How do they use traditional culture? What parts of the traditional culture will they regard as important? What changes do they make in the process of reorganizing, rewriting and recontextualizing? And, in a broader sense, why should people care about the language and culture of ethnic minorities?