Universiteit Leiden

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Language and Belonging: Policy, ideology, and minority youth in India, Québec and The Netherlands

Thursday 25 October 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


The voices of minority youth are central in my exploration of language policies and language ideologies in diverse contexts. Young people strategically appropriate discourses and invoke scales in positioning themselves and making identity choices, influenced by the language policies and ideologies in each context. Drawing on my research in North India, Québec, Mexico, and now The Netherlands, I explore language policies and language ideologies from a micro perspective, showing how young people experience linguistic hierarchies in educational contexts and how they choose their words to express a sense of belonging or exclusion. Through extended, open-ended interviews, I have collected thoughtful narratives of young people regarding language, education, identity, and aims for the future. From Kumauni youth who feel a part of the greater Indian nation and yet are labeled a “backwards” people to Québec Anglophones who are made to feel different in their francophone environment and choose to position themselves as superior, the language choices of minority youth sometimes reflect and sometimes contest dominant discourses and language use patterns. In North India, I heard Kumauni young women identifying with the Kumauni, Hindi, and Sanskrit languages depending on the scale that they chose to invoke. In the Québec City context, the anglophone and other non-francophone youth who were interviewed chose to invoke national and international scales, presenting themselves as superior, rather than accept minoritization at the city and provincial levels. The youth both in North India and in Québec do not deny their minority identities but, by shifting scales in their discourses, embrace the opportunity to affiliate themselves with broader linguistic communities. As these two contexts are compared in light of emerging sociolinguistic concepts and using ecological metaphors, implications will be considered for issues of youth resistance and identity negotiation among linguistic minorities in the Netherlands, setting the stage and raising questions for my current Marie Curie research project in The Hague.

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