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TRANSLATING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING MINORITY LANGUAGES:
Contemporary Issues in Linguistic Diversity and Global Cultural Democracy

Organizing Fellow: Fernando Armstrong-Fumero (Anthropology)

Current debates regarding bilingual education and cultural democracy underscore the complex experience of speakers of minority languages in the global politics of national identity and multiculturalism. This project will allow Fellows to discuss how to engage and work with languages and literary traditions that are peripheral to contemporary flows of cultural and financial capital and global media. This can include minority or indigenous languages, as well as languages that represent the dominant speech of post-colonial nation-states even if they are marginalized within the trans-national circulation of media and texts. Our primary goal is to compare how language policies and ideologies, translation and literary diffusion have been experienced by communities in the geographical areas where participants have expertise.

Ismael May May, Ana Patricia Huchim and Julio Gutierrez, panelst in the Minorty Languages Mini Symposium
Panelists Ismael May May, Ana Patricia Huchim, and Julio Gutierrez at the mini symposium in the Neilson Library Browsing Room.

This project will include three topically organized workshop sessions, a public mini-symposium, and a wrap-up session. In the initial three sessions, Fellows will prepare brief, informal presentations for discussion touching on the central topic of the day. Fellows can also propose readings to be discussed at these sessions.  The session topics will be:

Translation: Accuracy of translation from one language to another is a classic concern for literary, ethnographic and linguistic studies. These problems are often compounded in the case of minority languages and marginal literary traditions in which texts are composed with rhetorical patterns and other structural logics that are not as well-documented by secondary or critical literatures. In this session, Fellows will present on the state of primary and secondary sources for their respective research languages or areas, and on the general quality of existing English translations.

Standardization and Canonicity: The standardization and alphabetization of languages that have previously lacked a widely-recognized orthography and literary canon is a recurrent problem in policies geared towards the recognition and revitalization of minority speech-forms. In this session, Fellows will explore the potentials and problems of standardization and canon formation in different regions.

Multiculturalism & Linguistic Democracy: Discussions about the representation of minority languages have been a significant component of larger debates regarding multiculturalism and ethnic pluralism. This session will allow Fellows to examine some of the broader political, social and ethical implications of the issues discussed in the previous sessions.

Public Mini-Symposium: The Case of Yucatec Maya: This public event will feature three authors who write in the Yucatec Maya language, which is the primary language of close to a million people in the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo. They will present their work, which focuses on different aspects of language revitalization, the recording of traditional oral narrative, and the expansion of Maya into the mass media. During an extended lunch session with the authors, Fellows will explore the case study presented in the public session in terms of the issues of translation, standardization and cultural democracy that they will have covered in the previous sessions.

This project will interest faculty in the different language departments, in Anthropology, and in the various ethnic studies programs, as well as faculty from History, Government, or Sociology.

Project Schedule

Initial Workshop Sessions:

  • Friday, October 10, 2-4 pm
  • Friday, October 24, 2-4 pm
  • Friday, November 7, 2-4 pm

Public Mini-Symposium:

  • Friday, November 14, 7 pm (Neilson Browsing Room)

Wrap-up Session:

  • Saturday, November 15, 2-4 pm (preceded by lunch at 12:30 pm)

Project Fellows

  • Fernando Armstrong-Fumero, Anthropology, Organizing Fellow
  • Justin Cammy, Jewish Studies
  • Molly Falsetti-Yu, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Maki Hubbard, East Asian Languages & Literature
  • Marina Kaplan, Latin American Studies, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Jina Kim, East Asian Languages & Literature
  • Reyes Lázaro, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Lucy Mule, Education & Child Study
  • Nancy Sternbach, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Jacqueline Urla, Anthropology (UMass)
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