By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Worried that “xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise,” organizers of a recent academic conference invited presenters to “decenter English as the de facto language” of academia.
Campus Reform writes that the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) invited presenters at its Annual Meeting—held in Boston from August 30 through September 2—to hand in research papers in languages other than English to promote “linguistic pluralism.”
4S Has a history of advocacy for urgent and expensive climate change prevention, and concern for impact on various races and ethnic groups. Here is a prime example from their website:
“+Social science is still struggling to understand why “slow disasters” like climate change does not penetrate public opinion in many nations (especially the US) enough to shape aggressive policy responses.”
In other word why doesn’t the stupid public believe in the urgency of man-made climate change, and the evils of petroleum as we do?
“4S recognizes that xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise in many places.” Tweet This
“While English has become a scientific lingua franca that has been favoured in communications and networking across the globe, it is the official language of just a handful of countries, most prominently the United States of America and the United Kingdom,” the appeal notes, asserting that “the current policies of these two countries send a message of insulation and parochialism to the world, explicitly threatening the richness and importance of human difference.”
Despite their aversion to the English language, though, the organizers do specify that all presentations must come with English translations “to secure full understanding of each presentation.”
They also acknowledge that the initiative will be “a collective experiment…in which we’ll trial different ways in which presenters can express their ideas in the language with which they feel most comfortable,” encouraging presenters to be creative with their approaches.
The conference also features presentations (in English) lamenting the contemporary political situation, including a roundtable discussion called “Presidential Plenary: Interrogating ‘the Threat’” that asked scholars to consider how they can “move through the discourses of fear that dominate the framing of contemporary ‘threats.”
Another session explores “Reproductive Justice and Injustice,” using Boston’s history of “activism around reproductive health, rights, and justice” as a reference point.
“At this historical moment, we have witnessed an explosion of new reproductive techno-possibilities for some, even while individual rights and reproductive autonomy for others have been severely curtailed,” the online description states. “With the rise of authoritarian governments across the world we are witnessing renewed assaults on bodily freedoms.”
Viewing the matter through the lens of “local and global activism,” the description adds that participants will “assess the landscape of reproductive politics and policies today, theorize new frames for reproductive justice, and explore progressive possibilities for the future.”
Although English is spoken throughout the world by hundreds of millions in China, India, Africa and Europe, fuzzy thinking academic see English as the language of oppression and xenophobia. Their own patronizing mission statement reflects their disdain for anyone who does not share their increasingly peculiar views. Unfortunately, these views are gaining ground in academe, while losing ground everywhere else.