MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, University of Manchester, 11-13 September 2017
The Substance of Linguistic Justice
Convenors: Matteo Bonotti (Cardiff University) and Yael Peled (McGill University)
Over the past fifteen years, linguistic justice has increasingly become a key area of research in normative political theory. By drawing on existing debates on liberalism, multiculturalism, and social justice, and applying them to language-related issues, political theorists have investigated questions such as the following: how should states respond to the fact of linguistic diversity? Should states officially recognize and promote minority languages? Should states and supranational organizations promote the learning of a shared lingua franca and, if so, is English the best candidate for this role? Answering these and related questions has generated a growing body of literature (e.g. Kymlicka and Patten 2003; De Schutter 2008; Van Parijs 2011; Patten 2014), which has often drawn on examples concerning political communities that display particularly high levels of longstanding linguistic diversity, e.g. Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and the European Union.
While this emerging body of literature is both timely and productive, one of the main critiques that may be advanced against it concerns the unsystematic and sometimes superficial understanding of language and linguistic agency that underlies it, which consequently overlooks the complex social and cultural dynamics that characterise the political life of language. More specifically, a closer engagement with empirical work on language politics and policy, and more broadly sociolinguistics (including subfields such as forensic and historical linguistics) is imperative in order to render the analysis and normative recommendations presented in this body of work more empirically informed.
This workshop aims to partially fill this gap in the literature, by encouraging submissions that accord greater role to empirical work in the formulation and application of theories of linguistic justice. The workshop especially aims to complement the dominant focus on issues of inter-linguistic justice with an emphasis on the normative problems posed by intra-linguistic justice, and on the political dynamics of language as a live and interactive communication process.
The workshop will especially be of interest to political theorists but proposals from sociolinguists, lawyers and political scientists with a strong interest in linguistic justice are also welcome. The workshop invites papers from scholars of all levels, from PhD students to full professors. Papers addressing the following broad topics are especially welcome:
- Inter-linguistic justice
- Intra-linguistic justice
- English as a lingua franca (including Brexit-related issues)
- The ethics of live interaction in political settings (e.g. language and deliberative democracy)
- Democracy and political mobilization across linguistic boundaries