Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Indigeneity
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
At the 2017 meeting of the United Nations forum on Indigenous Peoples, 2019 was declared the “International Year of Indigenous Languages” and an action plan was created in order to “achieve maximum coordinated impact and social change in society regarding the indigenous languages and their speakers." This panel brings together diverse ethnographic analyses from Siberia, Amazonia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea to explore the simultaneous local, national, and international dynamics of (the) ‘global’ language reclamation movement(s) in order to contextualize such calls for “coordinated impact.” As several scholars have noted over the past several decades, many top-down, international calls to action and associated programs have not been successful in catalyzing on-the-ground language revitalization and the enaction of linguistic human rights (Stroud and Heugh 2004). While large-scale, international projects may indeed lead to increased valorization of—and institutional support and funding for—indigenous minority languages at both the national and international levels, it is of foremost importance to engage with ethnographic accounts of language policy (see McCarty 2011) that investigate what is actually happening in different linguistic contexts from the bottom-up.
The papers collected in this panel all seek to investigate what language activism—actions to “create, influence and change existing language policies” (Combs and Penfield 2012)—looks like on the ground in a variety of communities, and identify some of the constraints on local agency that are shaped by both immediate influences as well as the more far reaching dynamics of global action. Thinking of Meek’s (2016) work on scale in discussing language revitalization projects and goals, we seek to analyze the discourse surrounding the local-regional-global dynamics of indigenous/minority language policy and planning, and examine how actions made at the local level have effects up the scale, just as those at the global, national, and regional levels may also affect the local. These papers investigate how different styles and approaches to language activism are emerging or coalescing in light of both macro- and micro- level changes to linguistic ecologies, to better ascertain how much global campaigns and trends in language revitalization discourse have an impact on individual communities. In these various circumstances, the ways in which communities engage with top-down planning to either resist it or transform it to suit their specific needs comes into the forefront. The impact of community insiders and outsider or newcomer researchers are analyzed in some cases, with an eye to how individuals in the communities discussed here “relocalize” (Pennycook 2010) planning and advocacy strategies from other communities for their own uses. How do communities coordinate with others in their immediate (or national, or even international vicinities) toward common goals? In highlighting both the differences and similarities of several linguistic contexts, we are thus able to better understand how the global and local dynamics and trends in language planning and revitalization converge or diverge within specific linguistic ecologies.