Lecture by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, February 24, 2006

Berkeley Language Center Spring 2006 Lecture Series

Linguistic Human Rights – Some Recent Debates: Intellectual Games versus Respect

by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Professor Emerita, Department of Languages and Culture, Roskilde University, Denmark, Department of Education, Åbo Akademi University Vasa, Finland

Using concrete examples (from Pennycook, Blommaert, Canagarajah, May, etc), the paper presents and discusses some recent criticism of what is called by “critics” the linguistic human rights (LHRs) “school” or “paradigm” or “movement”, especially in relation to concepts like “mother tongue” and “language”. The point in addressing these claims is that there might be other types of “paradigms” that need unmasking. To what extent is work in this area becoming commodified so that some researchers who try to develop concepts and theories further, may instead end up playing intellectual games, presenting fast fleeting mutually reinforcing fads and fashions, which may further their academic careers, but which are either completely irrelevant from the point of view of those indigenous peoples and minorities who are participating in real-life struggles for their basic LHRs, or which can even harm them. Researchers have, in Ricento’s and Fairclough’s terms, to demonstrate adequately how their approach can move beyond academic theorizing, because enhanced voices that fail to change power imbalances are little more than a technologization of discourse practice.

Friday, February 24, 2006
4:00-6:00pm, 370 Dwinelle Hall