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Sustainable Pluralism: Linguistic and Cultural Resilience in Multi-ethnic Societies

Turning away from policy discourses of preservation, protection, and heritage, we look at the grassroots strategies by which minority languages and cultural practices are sustained in plural societies. Weak actors defend themselves and pursue their goals through the arts of accommodation, avoidance, and nichemaking. But cultural flourishing is not identical with human flourishing. How do the two intersect and diverge over time? Our international case studies come from Tibet, New Orleans, Mongolia, the Philippines, Greenland, Jewish Krakow, Russian Alaska, indigenous Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, the Lake Michigan Potawatomi, the Senegambian borderland, western China, and beyond.

Keynote speakers Lenore Grenoble (U of Chicago), Camiel Hamans (European Union), and Salikoko Mufwene (U of Chicago) will offer us views on the question from the Arctic, Brussels, and subsaharan Africa. Your colleagues and students from the Departments of Comparative Studies, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Geography, Linguistics, Comparative Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures will also present their field studies.

Organized by the Mershon Research Network in Cultural Resilience with the support of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the Center for Folklore Studies, the Department of Linguistics, and the Department of Comparative Studies of The Ohio State University, and of OSU’s 2013-14 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures. For further information, contact network co-conveners Dorothy Noyes noyes.10@osu.edu or Brian Joseph joseph.1@osu.edu.

2014 Event Schedule

Thursday, September 4

4:30-6:00 PM: Structures and Particularities

Words of welcome (Dorothy Noyes and Brian Joseph)

Salikoko S. Mufwene, University of Chicago, Linguistics

"Socioeconomic structure and language vitality: differences between Black Africa and the Western World"


Friday, September 5

8:45 AM: Registration (caffeine and carbohydrates)

9:00-10:00 AM: Historical and Conceptual Perspectives

Brian Joseph, OSU Linguistics / Slavic & East European Languages & Cultures
"Parameters of language sustainability"

Dorothy Noyes, OSU Center for Folklore Studies/English/Comparative Studies
"What do we want exactly? Systems and symptoms"


10:15-11:45 AM: Policy Interventions

Camiel Hamans, Adam Mickiewicz University, Linguistics
"A Brussels perspective on language"

Fitzgerald, Kati, OSU Comparative Studies
"Tibetan opera as intangible cultural heritage: ownership and agency"


1:00-3:00 PM: Grounding and Flux

Lenore A. Grenoble, University of Chicago, Linguistics/Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada
"Sustainability in the Arctic: language and place in Greenland"

Mark Bender, OSU East Asian Languages and Literatures
"Voicing tradition in flux: contemporary poetry in the East Asian-Southeast Asian interface"

Wenyuan Shao, OSU East Asian Languages and Literatures
"Web of significance: worldview of Yi people in the Book of Creation Myth Nashi jitou"


3:15-4:15 PM: Interethnic Exchanges

Jane Mitsch, OSU Linguistics
"The sustainability of linguistic plurality in the Senegambian borderlands"

Gaby Bamana, St. Cloud State University, Sociology and Anthropology
"Practices, texts, and objects: transmission of meaning and cultural resilience in post-socialist Mongolia"


4:30-5:30 PM: Traumatic Disruption

Kendra McSweeney, OSU Geography
"The limits to socioecological resilience in eastern Honduras"

Katie Carmichael, Virginia Tech, Linguistics
"The resilience of 'home': language use in post-Katrina Greater New Orleans"

Saturday, September 6

9:00 AM: Registration (caffeine and carbohydrates)

9:15 - 10:15 AM: Contact and Shift

Jessica Kantarovich, University of Chicago, Linguistics
"Russian endangerment in Alaska: Challenges in language documentation and reconstruction"

Marivic Lesho, OSU Linguistics
"Language maintenance and shift in the Philippine creole context"


10:30 AM - 12:00 PM: Strategies of Persistence: Top-Down, Bottom-Up

John N. Low, OSU-Newark, Comparative Studies/American Indian Studies
"The emergence of Pokagon's Band of Potawatomi Indians and their strategies to avoid removal"

Rachel Steindel Burdin, OSU Linguistics
"(Post)vernacular Yiddish in Krakow"

Morgan Y. Liu, OSU Near Eastern Languages and Cultures / Anthropology
"Sustainable community via stately claim in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan"

12-1:30 PM: Lunch and roundtable discussion