Languages of Internationalism
Conference to take place at Birkbeck College, University of London
25-26 May 2017
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1 September 2016
Scholars have in recent years re-energized the study of how peoples, cultures, and economies came, over time, to be linked and entangled across all manner of borders. Transnationalism and internationalism continue to be the watchwords of much humanities and social sciences scholarship. Yet insufficient attention has been paid to the crucial politics of language in historical scenarios of internationalism as a lived or imagined human enterprise. Organised by the Reluctant Internationalists research group at Birkbeck College London in collaboration with Dr. Brigid O’Keeffe from Brooklyn College, CUNY, this conference will bring together historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists, and scholars in related fields, to debate the languages of internationalism.
The goal of the conference is to shed light on the centrality of language to people’s past pursuit and experience of internationalism. Historians must better understand the linguistic realities that their subjects confronted in their various global networks and endeavors. For any agents of internationalism, language presented a wide variety of challenges and opportunities. It imposed obstacles and provided avenues to mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse peoples. The relative successes and failures of past internationalist projects in large measure owed to participants’ ability to effectively communicate across not just linguistic, but also political, cultural, economic, and professional boundaries. This fundamental and literal question of (mis)communication has dramatically shaped the lives of peoples variously confronting the global realities or pretensions of their milieus.
Conference participants will consider the frustrations and triumphs of human beings, in a wide variety of historical contexts, as they deployed language in their efforts to communicate across borders. In this way, the conference seeks better historical appreciation and understanding of language as a linchpin of transnational and international histories.
Submissions of individual papers on the following themes and topics are especially encouraged:
- Languages of Internationalism: When and why have languages helped or hindered internationalist projects? Roles played by lingua francas; bi-lingualism and multi-lingualism in border areas, cities, schools, refugee or POW camps; sign languages and deaf histories in global perspective; artificial languages as international auxiliary languages
- Language in Global Diplomacy and Cross-Cultural Exchange: Language politics by and within international organizations, including the League of Nations, United Nations, and others; (mis-)communication and international diplomacy; roles of interpreters and interpreting; connections between language and diplomatic failure; the role of language in educational, scholarly or artistic exchange programs
- (Mis-)Communicating Expertise in Science, Medicine, and Scholarship more generally: languages of technocracy; experts’ views on and uses of language and strategies of communication; international scholarly communities and the transmission of knowledge; differences between different fields of expertise; experts’ changing conceptions of ‘the public’ and how it can be reached
- Language Politics During and After Empire: Communication and questions of (linguistic) authority in colonial contexts; language and interpersonal relationships within and across empires; language and colonial diplomacy; language and postcolonial critique
- Linguistic Rights and Endangered Languages: Linguistic Rights; standardization and imposition of official or national languages; endangered languages and globalization
- Mass Media, Language, and Idea Transmission on the Global Stage: Communication and linking technologies such as the post, telegraph, radio, tv, and internet; language and global marketing; international publishing and translation projects
Please send paper titles, abstracts (300 – 400 words), and a brief academic biography (200 words) by 1 September 2016 to Brigid O’Keeffe (Brooklyn College, CUNY), firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be no conference fee. There will be limited funding available to contribute to the accommodation in London of junior scholars and those from institutions without research funds.