Language Revitalization Upended: Unequal Mobilities that Contribute to Sustained Orientation toward the Nation

Author: Anne Schluter (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
Speaker: Anne Schluter
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Within the current context of an already globalized world in which citizenship and socio-economic status help to determine individuals’ movement across borders, the structures of mobility are inherently unequal (Baynam 2013; Canagarajah 2017). A scarcity of viable employment options in some less developed nations makes foreign salaries the only conceivable source of income for many of these nations’ citizens, catalyzing external migration (Ladegaard 2017). At the same time, however, it is precisely this population of migrants that tends to encounter the largest number of constraints imposed by receiving nations (Gogia 2006). These constraints, in many cases, severely limit the degree to which migrants can establish new lives and identities independently of their countries of origin. Such is the case for the twenty members of the Warabi, Japan-resident Kurdish diaspora community who participated in the current interview and language attitude study. Traumatized by forced migration and marginalized as members of a stigmatized ethnic minority, many of the participants, in line with King and Christou (2011), view themselves in opposition to other Turkish citizens; a desire to forge a new, purely Kurdish linguistic self (Shuval 2000) – expressed in this study through strongly negative attitudes toward a morpheme used to flag Turkish loan words in Kurdish utterances – stems from these experiences. Analysis of participants’ casual language practices shows considerable evidence of such hybridity, and their children’s Turkish-language dominance emphasizes its importance to their linguistic selves. Such reliance on Turkish suggests that, while mobility (Urry 2007) and global neoliberal forces (Duchêne and Heller 2012) certainly help to shape this context, the participants’ positionality within this unequal migration system reinforces their orientation to the Turkish nation.


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Keywords: Japan, Kurdish, Turkey, Diaspora, Hybridity