Categorized | Youth Organization

“Language & Power: The Word in Authority and Opposition.”

Posted on 17 March 2010 by .

Recently (March 5, 2010) South Asian Studies Students Association (SASSA) presented a panel at the University of Toronto, St. George campus on “Language & Power: The Word in Authority and Opposition.” The panel event was part of the ‘Language Series’ events, inspired by the Bangladeshi nationalist language movements marked by the Feb 21 Language Martyrs’ Day (now International Mother Language Day.) The panel was organized in an attempt to dissect the role of language in political movement.

From left to right: Keren Rice, Azfar Hussain (of Grand Valley State University, Michigan), Frank Cody, and Stella Sandahl at a panel on language, power, and resistance.

Panelists had an inter-disciplinary focus, and included Frank Cody with an Anthropology specialization, Stella Sandahl of Sanskrit, Azfar Hussain with an English specialization and Keren Rice from Aboriginal Studies. Frank Cody delved into the institutions behind the authority of the “standard” Tamil language, and the increasing space for colloquial forms in printed literature. Stella Sandahl spoke about the attempts to Sanskritize the Hindi language, and construct it as a symbolic “national” Indian language, alienating the Southern regions and non-Sanskrit (Persian, Arabic, Turkish) influences. Azfar Hussain spoke of the Bangladeshi response to the Pakistani state’s imposition of Urdu as the state language, despite it being spoken by a small élite. Keren Rice shed light on the history of Aboriginal languages in Canada, and their current status and focus. These panellists explored how, in a diversity of contexts, certain groups have asserted language, dialects, and bodies of literature at times as authoritative, and at other times as challenges to authority.

Guests at the events raised questions about governance and authority in language and literature. They also showed curiosity about India’s relatively successful multilingual model of governance, and the communication between languages.

The event was sponsored by the Arts and Science Students Union (ASSU) and the Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS) from the University of Toronto.

Author:Naushad Ali Hussein

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