Debate 1:

What Kind of Social Responsibility Do Creole and Minority Languages Scholars Have towards the Communities of Speakers? Possible Paths and Best Practices for Exploring Social Responsibility in Our Academic Fields

  • Date: June 26, Monday
  • Time: 13:30-15:00
  • Location: Harmonie Building, Marie Loke Zaal (1313.0034)
  • Moderator: Maria Mazzoli (Groningen University)
  • Discussants: Dr. Philipp Krämer (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Dr. Anne Merkuur (Fryske Akademy; University of Groningen), Ruben Severina (Caribisch Netwerk)

Creole, Indigenous and minority languages are threatened by the pressure of languages of wider communication, often in connection (or continuation) to colonial and postcolonial dynamics. In these contexts, the relation of power between groups in contact is inequitable in terms of political stance, socioeconomic status, mobility and access to resources of the two groups. 

Academic research plays a controversial role in multilingual communities where one minoritized and/or endangered language is spoken, especially in fields such as sociolinguistics, anthropology and creole studies. These fields target minority communities which are disadvantaged in some respect, either in their socioeconomic status, or in terms of the ideologies and attitudes which undermine the survival of their language(s) and cultural heritage. However, research in these fields is often conducted by foreigners and/or Western-based and/or highly educated members of the minority community, which may cause a more or less disturbing effect, in terms of replicating the pattern of the “dominant” telling and re-telling the story of the “dominated”. 

In particular, especially in postcolonial territories, academic research has served historically as a tool of domination and oppression, functioning thanks to “extractive” methodologies which prioritized the needs (academic, religious, moral or political) of the researchers over those of the local community. For European minorities, the clash between groups may be less striking, although the sustainability of academic practices in the field of (socio)linguistics can be questioned along similar lines.  

Here are the questions we may want to address:

  • To what extent researchers today are responsible towards the social safety and the cultural survival of the minority and Creole communities they work with?
  • Should academic research be sustainable? 
  • Is “giving back” to the community a good approach? 
  • What other models of collaboration are being explored in current research? And what are the issues at stake?

Short bio moderator:

Maria Mazzoli is a linguist, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen in the group Minorities & Multilingualism | Frisian, and a member of the Research Center on Language and Cognition (CLCG). Her research focus is on sociolinguistics, language contact and Algonquian morphology. She is particularly interested in applied (socio)linguistics research that engages with societal issues relevant to communities. 

Short bio Philipp Krämer:

Philipp Krämer is a linguist, Assistant Professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and member of the Brussels Centre for Language Studies (BCLS). His focus is on sociolinguistics, multilingualism and postcolonial linguistics, language policy and language ideologies, for example in Creole-speaking societies or Western European border and contact regions.

Short bio Anne Merkuur:

Anne Merkuur is a linguist, working as a researcher at the Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden and as an Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen for the group Minorities & Multilingualism | Frisian. Her research focuses on language change in Frisian, the minority language spoken in the province of Fryslân in the Netherlands.

Short bio Ruben Severina:

Ruben Severina is a teacher with experience in education in Curacao. Since 1989 he is living in the Netherlands. He has been the chairman of the SPLIKA Foundation, until October 2020. SPLIKA aims to promote Papiamento. SPLIKA, together with the Akademia Papiamentu Foundation, strives for the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. He is currently a board member of the NiNsee and a member of the advisory board of KIEN.