Janet McIntosh from the Department of Anthropology at Brandeis University will be coming to speak at UCLA on Wednesday, November 2nd from 5-7 pm in Haines Hall 352. Here is a description of what she will be talking about:
“Linguistic Atonement and Structural Oblivion: Penitence and Hegemony in White Kenyan Language Ideologies”
Abstract: My argument in this talk hinges on the observation that white Kenyan relationships with Kenya’s lingua franca, Kiswahili, stand as a synecdoche for the broader question of white Kenyans’ role in the nation. On the one hand, white Kenyans have shifted from an early twentieth century colonial attitude toward Kiswahili that was patently pejorative to a much more congenial footing I call “linguistic atonement,” in which language enthusiasms and longings are enacted through linguistic behavior as well as meta-linguistically performed, in hopes that such attitudes might help mitigate a history of colonial discrimination. Yet despite the good feelings of many white Kenyans towards Kiswahili, they nevertheless reify a subtle but persistent hierarchy of languages, one established in the colonial era through colonial policies and settler habits, but now largely uninterrogated. Because white Kenyans are so aware of their positive feelings toward Kiswahili but relatively unawa!
re of their role in an enduring linguistic hierarchy that continues to benefit them, I deem their language attitudes an instance of what I call “structural oblivion”; that is, an elite group’s relative lack of awareness of their own complicity in hegemony, no matter how well-meaning they may be.
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