Language Realms and Desires: Biographies, Multilinguality and Power in Society
Due to global migration and its regulation through policies in societies, questions of language empowerment and language legitimacy have become increasingly important. While more and more people are socialized as multilingual speakers, nation states and especially their educational systems remain mostly monolingually organized. Therefore multiple processes of exclusion as well as of attempts at integration and belonging result from speaking languages “of others” and “of one’s own”.
Literary writers have found ways to describe what it means for them to write in another language, making it their own. This can occur under conditions of exile (Vladimir Nabokov, Eva Hoffman) or in the course of purposeful migration (Jhumpa Lahiri, Tomer Gardi, Yiyun Li). The new language certainly presents challenges and restrictions but also a realm of transformation and creativity.
By conceptualizing language as a social practice, we would like to explore situations and interactions of biographical relevance. The focus could be on questions such as: In which ways does multilinguality or learning to speak the new language as a migrant present speakers with processes of exclusion? Does the new language possibly also represent what speakers desire, or who they desire to become? How do speakers reflect “their own” and “others’” languages biographically? How can we reconstruct the power relations they experienced in their language biographies?