Jose Lambert, Cultural Studies: the study of Cultures and the question of Language

Uploaded on


More in: Education , Technology
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads


Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds



Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

    No notes for slide


  • 1. Cultural studies, the study of cultures and the question of language: facing/excluding the new millennium Baetens & Lambert
  • 2. Sommers (1996) and the case of Pureto Rico It is the case of an entire population that stays on the move, or potentially so, so much that Luis Rafael Sánchez makes a hysterical joke about Puerto Rican national identity being grounded in the guagua aérea (air bus) shuttling across the Atlantic puddle. The language reflects its mobility. In New World, where commercial, cultural and political border crossings define so many lives, boundary words like here and there, mine and yours, “are hardly stable signposts”.
  • 3. In case of Purto Ricans, their identity can be read in their language, and their language is a continuous mixture, it can be defined in terms of mobility – or translation, which is supposed to be the same thing: the “endless translations of Puerto Ricans from one place and language to the other”
  • 4. Field work. Sites in literary and cultural studies (Garber, Franklin & Walkowitz 1996) Focusing on the role of the nation-state in culture, tends to overlook language in the establishment of cultures and identities The contributors have anthropological background In certain cases language becomes the heart of the matter Field work deals with language in an erratic way, often ignoring it as part of culture, just mentioning it, or suggesting that culture and language are just the same thing
  • 5. Field work. Sites in literary and cultural studies Europeans tend to have a stereotyped view on the position and status of languages in the United States the whole set of linguistic rules, hierarchies and distinctions underlying social relations is presented as academic and inefficient. It is well known that quite a few languages express politeness and social distinction by means of their pronoun structures
  • 6. Disciplines The heavy stress on language as an aspect of cultural identity is of course not new at all. Most programmes for cultural studies are ill at ease with the question of language since from the beginning their institutional background has isolated them from linguistics and/or the study of language It is often explicitly literary environment where cultural studies has originated, the question of language was not the real issue. For literary scholars, identity is generally supported by the idea of nation.
  • 7. Modern historiography insists, quite rightly, on the central role played by language in the establishment of the nation-state social psychology and in communication studies, where cultural awareness has become quite central, the language component is often hardly taken into consideration Communication Studies/ economics: often overlooking language and the verbal component as a rather peripheral difficulty, which is at its best good for the more ‘literary’ (in fact ‘cultural’) activities in society.
  • 8. Linguistics: the most devoted discipline to language but not culture and identity Sociolinguistic, discourse analysis and pragmatics have broken down the spell The most embarrassing phenomenon may be that the many links between culture and language may be approached in any area of the humanities (including law, economics, experimental psychology) but that there is no institutionalized nor even widely accepted space for it The question of linguistic and cultural identity is very fashionable nowadays, maybe more in our newspapers than in research, but it certainly remains a no-man’s land in the humanities.
  • 9. On the field: observing culture in everyday life Most international politicians, diplomats or business people have to solve their problems in a very different way, i.e. on a moment-to-moment and practical basis. While generally recognizing that cultural differences and barriers are widespread and hinder communication considerably, they are divided as far as language problems go: top managers make use of the new lingua franca from morning to evening, often in a quite satisfactory way since they do not feel the need to change their habits.
  • 10. On the field: observing culture in everyday life Successful multinationals demonstrate by their very existence that the relevance of language as a component of cultural identity is limited at least in their case. So-called monolingual countries simply and officially ignore the possibility that their visitors, or even citizens, may have any language problems, whereas so-called bilingual or multilingual societies do the opposite, but usually in a limited way
  • 11. On the field: observing culture in everyday life Successful multinationals demonstrate by their very existence that the relevance of language as a component of cultural identity is limited at least in their case. Whatever the underlying theories may be, societies have been obliged to adapt their language policy and hence their language training to new goals
  • 12. New and old worlds, or the language of translation Borders are supposed to refer to territories, and territory refers to the nation. From the moment borders become mobile and from the moment languages are mixed, the homogeneity of identity is under threat, and language becomes translation. Language is thus supposed to be homogeneous. Strangely enough, this is supposed to be a feature of the ‘New World’ The norm for identity, however, remains territory, and ‘translation’ appears to be a bizarre language since it is all the time on the move between two places.
  • 13. New and old worlds, or the language of translation Such a mobility is obviously due to the development of technology and the bridge building impact of air travel. It is not uncommon among translation scholars to stick to the idea that languages are to be located in a spatial framework, more common even than to maintain them within nations, as ‘national languages’. In most translation theories and research, the concept of ‘translation’ has kept its primary meaning as ‘transfer’ from one place to the other. But it is possible, of course, to read ‘transfer’ as a metaphor that does not exclude the heterogeneity of space and territory as well as its non- coincidence with nations.
  • 14. American and other puzzles: language and identity in the new millennium Even-Zohar attempted to distinguish some of the basic rules of ‘culture repertoire’ He did not really look for linguistic parameters, nor even for communicational parameters. The more we study the composition and the ‘repertoire’ of communities who meet and interact by e-mail or via Internet, the more we are aware of the historical and cultural antecedents of our contemporary “communication societies” In previous ages, no more than in the new millennium, citizens of a given society can hardly select their neighbours (they may be allowed to select their most intimate partners, but not necessarily their mayor, their policemen or their priests)
  • 15. American and other puzzles: language and identity in the new millennium In virtual societies they can drop any new community from the moment they don’t like it any more: they can take part in the active construction of communities that may develop mainly, if not only, on the basis of shared communication Among the principles that allow for a better distinction between virtual and traditional identities, the principle of communication becomes quite central. An interesting distinction between ‘traditional’ and ‘virtual’ communities is that the language options are now much more open in the new worlds.
  • 16. American and other puzzles: language and identity in the new millennium The dominant role of verbal, especially written communication is weakened by new competitors, such as visual communication. The very development of virtual worlds out of the traditional ones is already an indication that this shift is forever and that old things will never come back again in their original environment.
  • 17. Updating cultural studies, or universities one of the embarrassing conclusions is that universities are in trouble when trying to discover the right key for dealing with societies and cultures. They do not even deal with traditional societies, they rather tend to deal with traditional societies on the basis of traditional and imaginary models which reflect certain layers only of society. It is more relevant to promote research on culture in contact with other competences, i.e. in an open, interdisciplinary way, than to quarrel about the exact definition of ‘cultural studies’.
  • 18. Thanks For Your Patience