Tag Archives: language

Will Québec Anglophones take to the streets?

Anglophone municipal leaders are worried that the Parti Québécois (PQ) government is destroying linguistic peace according to a March 12 Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin.  Since the PQ formed the minority government late last summer, language has been back on the political agenda in a very contentious way. Québec has had its ethno-linguistic battles historically between the Francophone majority and the Anglophone minority (although the language debate has expanded to include other linguistic groups).  Through most of the last decade, the language issue seemed to have quieted down.  Scholars like Meadwell and Pinard have described the cyclical nature of mobilization, demobilization and remobilization of the nationalist movement (and by consequence, the ebb and flow in the salience of ethno-linguistic politics). There are numerous reasons given about the perennial revitalization of language politics: from labor market competition, to threats to the French language, to political pandering. Whatever the reason this time, it begs the question as to how Anglophones will respond; specifically if they are more likely to resort to disruptive collective action. Continue reading


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Fields of Minority Language Activism (Part One)

As part of my ongoing series on minority language advocacy,  in this post I continue my discussion  by looking at some of the strategic spaces or “fields” targeted by grassroots language activists.  In particular, I consider how minority language activists often work in “political” fields so as to influence state-level governance and policies. In my next post, I will consider how minority language activists also often work in “cultural” fields that involve reaching out to “everday” people and community members in ways that entail the orchestration of festive and educational actions.

Social movements working to resist and reverse processes of minority language loss, such as the Basque movement in France and Spain, the Welsh movement in Great Britain, the Ainu movement in Japan or the Navajo movement in the U.S, have emerged in response to enduring legacies of state-based nationalism founded upon the logic of linguistic assimilation.  Minority language activists challenge the idea that ethnolinguistic diversity is a social problem that must be contained and suppressed. In building these challenge local-level activists, however, need to target specific domains.

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Notes on the ideological challenges of minority language activism

In this post I continue my discussion of the transnational movement for linguistic rights by exploring some of the big ideological challenges facing minority language activists. As in any social movement context, proponents of linguistic rights and minority language revitalization must engage in a protracted battle of ideas so as to frame their agenda in a manner that generates legitimacy and support in the public sphere. Two of the most salient framing challenges faced by minority language advocates are linked to the utilitarian view of linguistic worth, and the political legacy of linguistic assimilation.   Continue reading

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Finding a Voice for Minority Languages

Around the world a host of grassroots actors and organizations have been mobilizing to combat the degeneration, decline and potential ‘death’ of minority languages. Minority language movements are rarely just about ‘saving’ languages per se. Rather, these movements are often engaged in organized and enduring efforts to re-define the practice of citizenship, promote alternative notions of nationhood and re-purpose public policies and institutions. While most of these movements face extraordinary challenges and dilemmas, many have also realized important social and political gains. Social movement scholars have much to contribute to the academic as well as political discussion on minority language issues yet their voices are acutely silent on linguistic issues. Social movement scholarship also has much to gain by taking a closer look at minority language movements.  Over the next few months I will be  writing  about minority language movements for Mobilizing Ideas. I start with a brief and general overview of the topic so as to invite students, researchers and activists alike to consider this most compelling but yet often over-looked form of mobilization. Continue reading


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Multilingual Protest and Scholarship

The increasing development of transnational ties and coalitions among social movement activists and organizations through the decades reveals how multilingualism can act as a vital and empowering resource for promoting sociopolitical change. Yet, the global hegemony of English also reveals how underlying power dynamics present dilemmas for progressive movements founded upon inclusive principles of multiculturalism and participatory democracy. Social movement scholarship also reflects this linguistic power dynamic and scholars should take heed. By providing more opportunities and venues for non-English speakers to participate in shaping academic debates and discussions new insights and theoretical perspectives are more likely to develop.

The ability of grassroots activists to speak multiple languages helps them to better reach out across borders, establish new allies, expand social networks and bolster visibility through mass media outlets. When Zapatista rebels launched their insurrection from the heart of Mayan territory in 1994, the capacity of leaders to integrate indigenous languages with Spanish and English allowed the movement to establish a broad base of support characterized by both transnational breadth and deep local roots. Continue reading

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