PACS - Linguistic Racism in multilingual areas. An interdisciplinary approach

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Currently we are looking for a PhD Student for this project: See more info here and in German here

Racism is a complex and multifaced phenomenon that does not only encompass discrimination but also embraces discrimination of people based on their perceived cultural diversities (Barker 1981; Tankosić and Dovchin 2021). One of the many social expressions of racism is one that takes language as a pretext for legitimizing and perpetrating inequality, stigmatisation and exclusion. Concepts such as language racism (Weber 2015), linguistic racism (Dovchin 2020), linguicism (Skutnabb-Kangas 2015), or raciolinguistic ideologies (Flores and Rosa 2015) thus refer to the ideologies, practices and structures that stigmatise people, in particular Black and Indigenous People and Persons of Colour (BIPOC) and ethnic minorities, who are constructed as linguistically (and culturally) diverse on the basis of their:

  • belonging to minority language groups, which are perceived as less prestigious than the language spoken by the societal majority (Binanzer and Jessen 2020, Putjata and Koster 2021);
  • language use, accent or speech, which are seen as deviant from the norm and thus treated as deficient or inferior (Dovchin 2020; Piller 2016; Lippi-Green 2011; Skutnabb-Kangas 2015);
  • racialized bodies, even if their linguistic production conforms to institutional expectations and is indistinguishable from the language of majority members (Flores and Rosa 2015, 149).

Even when linguistic racism is not overtly perpetrated through explicit racist discourse, verbal aggressions and “raciolinguistic micro-aggressions” (Corona and Block 2020), linguistically diverse people often experience “linguistic invisibility” and social exclusion (Dovchin 2020) or feel at a disadvantage if they face language-based barriers in institutional environments such as the workplace or educational institutions (Kell et al. 2007; Thoma 2020; Binanzer and Jessen 2020). Both overt and covert forms of linguistic racism can have a negative impact on victims, ranging from inferiority complexes, depressive symptoms (Dovchin 2019) to socio-economic disadvantages such as discrimination in the labor market and career development. Yet, institutional responses and strategies to prevent such subtle and covert forms of racism are lacking.

Within this scenario, the proposed doctoral work will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective to investigate linguistic racism as it is experienced by linguistically diverse people in urban and rural multilingual areas.

Research on linguistic racism is particularly timely, not only because of the increasingly superdiverse nature of today’s societies, but also because of the increase in incidents of both covert and overt racism (including linguistic racism) since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, e.g. those against the global Asian community (Dovchin 2020; Tankosić and Dovchin 2021). Newly emerging forms of racism, such as also linguistic racism, lack institutional responses and hence the work conducted by the doctoral candidate will have important implications. It will contribute to an understanding of the phenomenon from an emic perspective and will be useful in the development of strategies and interventions against linguistic racism that can impact public discourses on language as well as language policies.

While there is a considerable and growing academic debate on the connection between language and racism internationally, research on this topic in and on multilingual areas in Europe, both in rural areas like South Tyrol as well as in large cities such as many European capitals, is only in its early stages. Contexts of institutionalized multilingualism and the co-existence of multiple languages are a laboratory to investigate and devise strategies to deal with linguistic racism, both from an individual as well as a structural and institutional perspective.

This PhD is based on and funded through a cooperation between the Leibniz University of Hannover, in particular Prof. Binanzer, as well as the Center for Inclusive Citizenship (CINC) and Eurac Research, a private Research Centre in South Tyrol, Italy. The topic bridges the research interests of various Eurac Institutes, and is situated within the Migrations & Diversities Research Group. Furthermore, it adds to current projects of the Institute for Applied Linguistics, e.g. which focus on multi/plurilingualism and plurilingual and intercultural learning (e.g. MeBiK, KiDiLi, SMS 2.0…).It contributes to research on migration and integration governance as well as on non-discrimination at the Institute for Minority Rights by disentangling various forms of racism and the institutional responses to them, as well as by evaluating the positions of the various actors working towards preventing racism. Finally, it enriches also research of other Institutes which are part of the Migrations & Diversities Research Group, such as the Institute for Regional Development’s research in addressing access to education and labour market of a variety of persons with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds in both urban and rural areas.

Project Partners
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  • Leibniz University of Hannover

Project Team
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