Mother tongues, governmentality, and protectionism

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2002, (154), pp. 11 - 28
Issue Date:
2002-12-01
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This paper questions the essentialist status of the mother tongue as the cornerstone of language policy. One reason for doing so is the need for a constantly skeptical questioning that must be at the heart of any critical project. More specifically, it is important to raise questions about what we mean by "language" and what different concepts, ideologies, or discourses we mobilize by particular constructions of the term. The substance of the argument in this paper, however, is related to ways in which the mother tongue was frequently promoted as a strategy of colonial language policy. Viewed through the concepts of governmentality and protectionism, it can be argued that the mother tongue has as much to do with continuity in the construction of the Other as with community or individual rights. These ideas will be elaborated through a brief consideration of British language policy in Malaya and Hong Kong. I conclude by arguing for the importance of considering alternative language strategies, such as disinvention. © Walter de Gruyter.
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