Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

FS 2018
Center for the Study of Language and Society

Rethinking language and transnationalism

Mittwoch, 25.04.2018, 16:15 Uhr

Das Forum Language and Society ist eine Reihe von Gastvorträgen zu Themen der Soziolinguistik. Doktorierende der GSH können sich die Teilnahme als Zuhörende mit 0,25 ECTS pro Vortrag anrechnen lassen.

Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Dr. Brook Bolander, The University of Hong Kong
Datum: 25.04.2018
Uhrzeit: 16:15 - 17:45 Uhr
Ort: F-105
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

Recent decades have seen an upsurge in research on transnationalism in sociolinguistics and related disciplines, resulting from an increased interest in migration and transboundary ties and an attempt to disrupt the naturalised relationship between the nation and social life. Whilst acknowledging the need to criticize this naturalised relationship (“methodological nationalism”, Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002), this paper argues for the necessity of being equally critical towards the notion of transnationalism. It maintains that an overuse of the term transnationalism has led to a reduction of its explanatory power; and it thus cautions against conceptualising transnationalism as a priori relevant for questions of language use and ideology, and hence adopting a perspective of what one might term “methodological transnationalism” (Bolander 2018).

Drawing on data from ethnographic research on the role of English amongst the Ismaili Muslim community, the paper explores what a critical approach to transnationalism might offer sociolinguistics. Via discussion of examples collected during fieldwork in two communities of Ismailis in Hunza, Northern Pakistan and Khorog, Eastern Tajikistan, the paper proposes an approach to transnationalism as a scale and it delineates a heuristic which can be utilised to operationalize and hence study transnationalism empirically. It thereby reflects upon how this heuristic might offer a means to investigate how transnationalism is made meaningful as a category of practice and how this process of meaning-making is facilitated and constrained by power relationships (Gal 2016; Irvine 2016; Bolander 2017). In doing so, the paper reflects upon how this heuristic might be applied to study the transnational positioning of one’s interlocutors whilst also prompting for reflection on one’s own positioning and scale-making practices. 





Bolander, B. 2017. Scaling value: transnationalism and the Aga Khan’s English as a “second language” policy. Language Policy.


Bolander, B. 2018. From methodological nationalism to methodological transnationalism? Paper presented at “Disturbing Sociolinguistics” Roundtable, The University of Hong Kong, March 8–9.


Gal, S. 2016. Scale-making: Comparison and perspective as ideological projects. In E. S. Carr & M. Lempert (eds.), Scale. Discourse and dimensions of social life (pp. 213–231). California: University of California Press.


Irvine, J. T. 2016. Going upscale. Scales and scale-climbing as ideological projects. In E. S. Carr & M. Lempert (eds.), Scale. Discourse and dimensions of social life (pp. 213–231). California: University of California Press.


Wimmer, A., & Glick Schiller, N. 2002. Methodological nationalism and beyond. Nation-state building, migration and the social sciences. Global Networks 2.4, 301–334.