On Dwelling in the Linguacene: Where Hypomnesic Monolingualism to Reactionary Multilingualism

Lecture | February 10 | 3-5 p.m. | Dwinelle Hall, B-4 (Classroom side)

 David Gramling, Assistant Professor of German Studies, University of Arizona

 Berkeley Language Center

In my book The Invention of Monolingualism (2016), I argued against the predominant, charismatic notion that monolingualism is the vice of those who refuse to learn other languages, or otherwise refuse to become open to cultural difference in a multilingual world. Historically, it turns out that the performative metaphors of disability, illness, handicap, blindness, or delusion that have been most aggressively mobilized in academic discussions of “monolingualism” have tended to land most squarely not on the doorsteps of nationalist ideologues and power brokers, but on indigenous persons, rural communities, women, internal minorities, and those for whom (foreign) language instruction lay beyond the sanctioned civic agenda. Accordingly, abandoning the notion that monolingualism is a kind of individual failing to be remediated may allow us to explore another line of thinking: not merely the Bakhtin-inspired gesture that monolingualism has no ultimate claim to existence in a heteroglossic world, but rather that monolingualism may indeed exist as such, as a supra-individual, historically specific structure. I propose that this structure of monolingualism attunes itself to manage the multilingual and translational traffic in meaning (Pratt 2002) in a particular way, and ever more effectively so in age of so-called superdiverse societies. Following this hypothesis, I introduce the heuristic concept of the linguacene, a counterpart term to the widely circulated “anthropocene,” as a way to come to better terms with the technocratic management of multilingualism under conditions of late capitalism (Duchêne and Heller 2013). In this talk I draw on the work of Bernard Stiegler on hypomnesis and Robert Moore on “reactionary multilingualism” in contemporary Europe, in order to illustrate what I see as some of the norms of operation that characterize the historical era of the linguacene and its monolingualisms. Throughout, I will remain primarily concerned with the possibility of survivance (Vizenor 1999, Wyman (2012) and dwelling (Ingold 2000) amid the linguistic conditions of late capitalism, and the potential for action and resistance that we may envision within it.

 ogarcia@berkeley.edu, 510-877-4002