28 April 2009

Kindred spirits in anthropology

Little by little, the academic world is waking up to the reality that monolingualism severely limits the way we think. Take anthropology, for instance. Here is a 20 January 2009 blog entry about the journal Anthropological Quarterly:

"In Polyglot Perspectives, scholars will present essays on books written in languages other than English. Such languages may include those in which there is a long tradition of anthropological scholarship, but we hope to give particular emphasis to less widely used languages in which a nascent anthropology is already making important contributions that may be invisible to the larger international community.

"In launching this new section, we acknowledge that, in many ways, the English language has been allowed to define the anthropological mainstream. We also acknowledge that, in many disciplines, English has become the language of scholarship in countries where English is not the locally dominant language. Anthropology, however, is both a cosmopolitan discipline and one that seeks to recognize and study politically less powerful cultures and languages."

English has become the language of scholarship in the Philippines, where I live, even if English is spoken by less than 50% of the adult population and read by less than 20%. Creative writing, however, is mostly in various vernacular languages, though criticism (like this blog) remains mostly in English. The linguistic schizophrenia takes its creative and critical toll.

Oh, for a gadget like the Universal Translator in Star Trek, through which beings from anywhere in the universe communicate with each other! (Of course, I strongly disagree with the tempocentric view that, in the future, the Federation Standard will be Standard American English!)

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