Authenticity, Competition and Legitimacy in the Breton Language Revitalization
CERS graduate student lecture by Alexander Thomson (UCLA, Anthropology).
"Fr. Maunoir miraculously obtains the gift of the Breton language," Quimper Cathedral, Brittany, France. (Photo: Michael Kranewitter; cropped. CC-BY-SA 4.0.)
Tuesday, January 28, 202012:00 PM - 1:30 PM
11372 Bunche Hall
Scholars of language, especially those working on “language revitalization,” harbor competing commitments. On the one hand, they traffic in “discourse” and “power” like all social scientists. On the other, they want language revitalization to be a Sovereign Good (Barthes 1978:101). So it is that Duchêne and Heller (2007:11) conclude their contribution to Discourses of Endangerment with the following, rather obvious statement: “Rather than assuming that we must save languages, perhaps we should be asking who benefits and who loses from understanding languages the way we do, what is at stake for whom, and how and why language serves as a terrain for competition.” This talk aspires to do just that. It reports the findings of an ethnographic study of the Breton language revitalization, showing how speakers and scholars of Breton position themselves in social structure. In the process, it responds to recent efforts to “de-construct” notions of “linguistic authenticity and legitimacy” by a) clarifying the value positions of these critiques, b) relating linguistic legitimacy –or its absence– to the types of social and historical conditions under which it occurs, and c) demonstrating the social work performed during acts of linguistic de-authentication.
Alexander M. Thomson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA. He has conducted ethnographic research at the peripheries of two Western European countries: Brittany (France) and Shetland (UK). His research deals with the discursive and dispositive conditions of language revitalization. It has been supported by UCLA's Graduate Division, the UCLA Anthropology Department, and the Center for European and Russian Studies
Cost : Free and open to the public. RSVP not required for admission.
Sponsor(s): Center for European and Russian Studies, Anthropology