Monica Heller (University of Toronto) - Language in late capitalism: commodification and the commons

Mon, Apr 29, 2019, 4:30 pm

"This talk examines some of the ways in which the contemporary period produces contradictory and often oppositional ideas about language and forms of linguistic practice. On the one hand, the extension and intensification of capitalism manifests itself in the tertiarization of the economy and the commodification of language as resource and linguistic practice as soft skills – but also in the commodification of “authentic” identities, and therefore of authenticating linguistic forms and practices. At the same time, resistance to this process takes the form of renewed claims to the commons, often defined by shared linguistic forms and practices, and usually those understandable in other terms as “authentic”. The convergence of these different positions occurs in specific sites, such as linguistic revitalization movements, minority language political mobilization, and, quite broadly, language teaching. I will discuss some of the ways in which such contemporary tensions emerge from long intertwined histories of capitalism, colonialism and the construction of the nation-state, leading to particular spaces for both the exercise and the resistance to long-standing forms of linguistic domination.”

Monica Heller received her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1982. Since then, she has been at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, where she is now Full Professor with a cross-appointment to the Department of Anthropology. She is also has a nominal appointment in the Département d’études françaises of the Université de Moncton, and has been Visiting Professor in Germany, Brazil, Belgium, France, Spain and Finland. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Vice-President and President-Elect of the American Anthropological Association. She held the Konrad Adenauer Forschungspreis of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung in 2001 at the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (Mannheim) and the Universität Freiburg.

She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Sociolinguistics, and has published extensively in important journals such as Language in Society, Langage et société and Language Policy. Her most recent books are Paths to Postnationalism: A Critical Ethnography of Language and Identity (2011, Oxford University Press), Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation (2015, Oxford University Press; co-authored with Lindsay A. Bell, Michelle Daveluy, Mireille McLaughlin, and Hubert Noël) Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Towards a Critical History (2018, University of Toronto Press, co-authored with Bonnie McElhinny), and Critical Sociolinguistic Research: A Methods Manual (2018, Routledge, co-authored with Sari Pietikäinen and Joan Pujolar).

Organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of French and Italian
Co-sponsored by the Humanities Council and the Canadian Studies Program

Location: 
010 East Pyne