A new and sharper look at languages and globalizationby Seraphin Kamdem

International Journal of the Sociology of Language


Linguistics and Language / Language and Linguistics


DOI 10.1515/ijsl-2013-0071   IJSL 2014; 225: 163 – 171

Book review

A new and sharper look at languages and globalization

Naz Rassool. Global issues in language, education and development: perspectives from postcolonial countries (Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights 4).

Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2007. 1 Introduction

At the heart of debates about recent world history and ensuing globalization is the question of the place of local cultures and languages. They can either be perceived as a necessary part of the globalization agenda, or as the epicenters of resistance to the globalization trend. Yet, as Rassool points out in the introduction, her book is “not about language per se; neither is it explicitly about language rights discourses” (p. 1). The focus of the book is on the role that “language- ineducation policy”, throughout history, has played in shaping development possibilities within the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Three complementary parts of different lengths make up the book. The first part focuses on language diversity, and is made up of four chapters. The second part is the case studies, made up of three chapters. The third part is a concluding chapter analyzing issues related to globalization, language(s) and development within the post-colonial contexts. 2 Review

The first four chapters describe and analyze the historic evolution of colonial and post-colonial social policies, weaving in the analysis, the language problems, and the educational policies that resulted from the contentious relationship between the colonizing European Empires and their colonies in Africa and Asia.

The first chapter, “Language and the colonial state”, analyzes the origins of the social policies and the linguistic planning agenda that developed with the expansion of the European colonial Empires. The creation of nations out of the colonies, and the development of colonial states with a centre/periphery tension resulted in an unbalanced connection of the countries in the South to the

European metropolises, and in “unresolved questions regarding the choice of

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Download Date | 5/22/15 1:18 PM 164   Book review IJSL 225 (2014) language(s) that would best support economic and social development” (p. 15).

The resulting educational systems were entrenched in inequalities with the European languages imposed throughout societies which themselves had their own languages, but which could not be used in education. This chapter also makes a critical analysis of “policy effects” of “language-in-education policy” (pp. 26–27) where the exclusive choice of colonial languages in education directly created a rigid and discriminatory social ladder with people literate in European languages placed high in the chain of power and status. Furthermore, the provision of education, and access to literacy as a tool for social development, were marked and conditioned by this unbalanced Empire-colonies relationship. Rassool questions the civilizing agenda of the colonial enterprise: “Like their Indian counterparts,

Africans also were constituted as objects of study, and their languages and cultural experiences, became reified in the arbitrary classificatory knowledge frameworks of 19th century missionary scholarship” (p. 42). This chapter also tackles the issue of reification of African cultures and peoples, or their perception in

Western scholarship only as “workers, not citizens” (p. 42 ), and consequently, as human resources to be civilized and to be molded as economic contributors to a centre-periphery dynamics marred by inequalities and exploitation.

The second chapter, “Post-colonial development, language and nationhood”, discusses the theoretical development of the concepts of “nations and states”.

Going back to the liberal democratic framework in the 19th century, this chapter looks at the connections of these two concepts to the project of colonialism, and analyzes the emergence of national identity and the power of states within the

Sub-Saharan African and South Asian regions. Throughout the chapter, there is a critical analysis of the connection between the colonial and postcolonial realities as an organic relationship marked by a strange continuation of colonial practices despite the Independences which should have marked a severing of the unfair and exploitative colonial links; “the habitus of subjectification” being at the heart of these relationships (pp. 61–62). The colonial construction of new cultural identities in the South is embroiled in the false identification with the colonial constructs leading to post-colonial realities still trapped in the colonial politics of “divide-and-conquer” (p. 64) of the European colonial Empires. Looking at the transition from the colonial era to the Independences’ decade of the 1960s, the resulting policies regarding language use in social communication and education, the building of the emerging nations, and the social philosophy of modernization, a number of intrinsically inter-related issues are analyzed: linguistic minorities, education provision, literacy-based inequalities, and developmental policies of the new nations.

Surveying critically the cultural and economic legacies of colonialism, and the current relationship between the former colonies and the former colonizing

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Book review IJSL 225 (2014)   165

European Empires, the author reveals the following: governance in post-colonial

Asia and Africa is marked by “control, containment, and economic benefit” (p. 67); economic management gives priority to the interest of the colonial economy through “the underdevelopment of the national economic base” (p. 68) of the colonial regions; the education system is set up and functioning actually as/with “major impediments to postcolonial social development” (p. 68) with “a planned differential access to education for different groups” (p. 69); as concerns human resource development, “the majority of the population [has] been denied opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to access higher level skilled jobs within different sectors of the economy” (p. 69); regarding language relations, “the incorporation of colonial languages into economic, political and sociocultural institutions contributed to [European] languages becoming a potent form of hegemonic cultural capital, representing that which everyone had to have in order to function effectively within society” (p. 71); regarding infrastructure, there is a false “mirror image of the metropolitan education system” (p. 71) with under-developed infrastructures, inappropriate and inadequate, resulting in under-qualified teachers, under-developed literacy (in both the European colonial languages and the local languages); as for social cohesion, the colonial policies have led to “mass displacement” and division of “ethnolinguistic groups” in the South, “and the seeds of potential ethnic and religious conflict” have been “sowed in the divide-and-rule policies of colonialism”, contributing to “the lack of a cohesive societal/national identity on which to build post-colonial nationhood” (p. 72); and finally, regarding the colonial model of development, it “was grounded in the sociocultural, political, and economic under-development of the colonized territories” (p. 73).