Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History

Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History

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By Monica Heller and Bonnie McElhinny
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2017
336 Pages
ISBN 9781442606203
Available Nov 2017
ISBN 9781487594169
Available Nov 2017

Providing an original approach to the study of language by linking it to the political and economic contexts of colonialism and capitalism, Heller and McElhinny reinterpret sociolinguistics for a twenty-first-century audience. They map out a critical history of how language serves as a terrain for producing and reproducing social inequalities.

The book, organized chronologically, and beginning in the period of colonial expansion in the sixteenth century, covers the development of the modern nation state and then the fascist, communist, and universalist responses to the inequities such nations created. It then moves through the two World Wars and the Cold War that followed, as well as the shift to liberal democracy, the welfare state, and decolonization in the 1960s, ending with the contemporary period, characterized by a globalized economy and neoliberal politics since the 1980s. Throughout, the authors ask how ideas about language get shaped, and by whom, unevenly across sites and periods, offering new perspectives on how to think about language that will both excite and incite further research for years to come.

Monica Heller is Professor in the Anthropology Department and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Bonnie McElhinny is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto, and former Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute.

List of Figures

Preface:  Hope 

Chapter 1:  Language, Colonialism, Capitalism:  Walking Backwards into the Future
1.1  Language and Inequality:  A Warty Approach to a Red Thread World
1.2  Red Flags:  Keywords, Hegemonies, Ideologies, and Warty Genealogies
1.3  Language Out of Place
1.4  Knotted Histories
1.5  The End of the Beginning

Chapter 2:  Language and Imperialism I:  Conversion and Kinship
2.1  "The First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative"
2.2  Colonialism, Imperialism, Postcolonialism, Decolonization
2.3  Intimacy and Connection Across Four Continents
2.4  Reduced to and by Christian Love:  Missionary Linguistics
2.5  Family Trees, Comparative Philology and Secular Religion

Chapter 3:  Language and Imperialism II: Evolution, Hybridity, History
3.1 "Mixing Things Up"
3.2  Imperialism and Industrial Capitalism
3.3  Evolutionary Theory:  Language and/as Race
3.4  Slavery, Plantation, Labour, Trade & "Mixed" Languages
3.5  Americanist Anthropology:  The Limits of Cultural Critiques of Evolutionary Racism
3.6  Linguistic Relativity, Colonial Ambivalence, and Modern Alienation


Chapter 4:  Language, Nation, State:  Legitimizing Inequality
4.1  "Le Symbole"
4.2  The Emergence of the Nation-State in Europe
4.3  Markets and Liberal Democracy
4.4  Making Subjects Through Language
4.5  Language and Differential Citizenship
4.6  Creating Peripheries
4.7  Institutional Interaction:  Regulating Relations in Industrial Capitalism
4.8  Making Scientific Linguistic Expertise

Chapter 5:  Internationalism, Communism and Fascism:  Alternative Modernities
5.1  "Visions of the Future"
5.2  International Auxiliary Languages (IALs): Peace, Geopolitics and Structural Linguistics
5.3  Making Communist Linguistics
5.4. Language and Fascism
5.5  Fault-lines


Chapter 6:  The Cold War:   Surveillance, Structuralism and Security
6.1  "Black Out"
6.2  Battles for Hearts and Minds
6.3  Internal Security:  The Investigation of Linguists During the McCarthy Period
6.4  Suspicious Words, Suspicious Minds
6.5  Infrastructure and Institutionalization: Communication Studies, Area Studies, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics
6.6  The New Search for Friction-Free International Communication:  Machine Translation and the Rise of Syntax
6.7  Nineteen Eighty-Four as a Weapon of the Cold War

Chapter 7: On the Origins of 'Sociolinguistics':  Democracy, Development and Emancipation
7.1  "A Dialectologist in India"
7.2  Engineering Language:  Literacy, Standardization and Education
7.3  Language Policy and Planning:  Technocratic Solutions
7.4  Domestic Development and American Sociolinguistics
7.5  Challenging Consensus
7.6  The Rise of Sociolinguistics in Europe:  Class and Conflict
7.7  The End of the Trente Glorieuses

Chapter 8:  Language in Late Capitalism: Intensifications, Unruly Desire and Re-Imagined Worlds
8.1  "Nayaano-nibii maang Gichigamiin"  
8.2  Late Capitalism:  The Expanding Reach of the Market and the Neoliberal State
8.3  Legitimizing Language and Critiquing Critique:  Debates about Language and Inequality
8.4  Managing Your Assets:  Language Quality, Linguistic Diversity and Citizenship
8.5  Brave New Selves:  "I am a Business, Man!" 
8.6  Harnessing Desire:  Affect, Authenticity and Embodiment
8.7  Re-Capturing the Commons
8.8  Hands On, Hands Off:  Reclamation, Redress, Refusal and Re-Imagining
8.9  This is How We Hope