Language and Globalization
Focus and rationale
The research focus of the Department of Culture Studies is on linguistic and cultural complexity in the context of globalization. Globalization processes such as immigration and internationalisation lead to contact situations in which different people with their distinct languages and cultures meet. Such forms of contact have been labelled 'super-diversity', and our research program can be described as the study of language and culture in the context of super-diversity. These contacts have consequences at a content level, i.e., for the languages and cultures involved, at an individual level, i.e., for the users of these languages and cultures, and at an institutional level, i.e., for the societal structures in which language and culture contact is situated.
Globalization processes and their outcome, super-diversity, on the one hand pose a theoretical challenge: theoretical and methodological models have to be revised in view of an increasing knowledge on scaling processes, worldwide movements of people, goods, ideas, and a growing influence of telecommunication and new media in the communicative and cultural landscape. On the other hand, they also pose a descriptive challenge: these processes, movements and influences are not yet sufficiently understood and have to be analyzed in detail using a variety of research methodologies in a variety of sites and contexts, at the crossroads of science and society, and preferably at a world-wide scale.
Within the program three main research domains can be distinguished in which the above mentioned challenges have to be met. The three main research domains are:
Language and culture contact
With respect to language there is special attention for processes of language mixing, code switching, language change and the emergence of new varieties, registers or hybrid codes. A thorough study of these phenomena that as a consequence of globalization show more speed and scope at the same time is a priority. Research approaches in this field include sociolinguistic, linguistic-anthropological and cognitive linguistic analysis.
Language and literacy acquisition
The acquisition of language and literacy focuses on formal (educational) as well as informal contexts (via popular culture, new media, peer groups etc.). Especially the way in which the acquisition of language and literacy is influenced by globalisation processes needs ongoing monitoring and analysis. Increased and diversified migration processes lead to new forms of language and literacy acquisition that are often considered problematic in formal contexts. The influence of new technologies leads to a growing role for mediation and multimodality in using language and literacy. Research methodologies in this domain include the 'new literacies' approach and studies of new media as well as semiotic, sociolinguistic, linguistic-anthropological, psycholinguistic and cognitive linguistic analysis.
Language, culture, ideology and policy
In this domain special attention is given to ways in which - in a context of globalisation - new questions with respect to the relationship between language, culture and identity come into existence, and how these questions are also discursively shaped in media, policy and popular culture. A special field of attention here is the issue of new forms of normatively, and attention is also given to the context of schooling in which legitimate forms of language and culture in a broad sense are defined, canonised and passed on to next generations. Research methodologies in this domain include (critical) discourse analysis, policy analysis, historical and contemporary document analysis and historical analysis. Opportunities for cooperation linking up with the contents of the program within as well as outside the faculty.
This research program keeps close track of the program Literature and visual art in the European public sphere (program leader: Prof. dr. Odile Heynders) which groups the Department's literature, culture and art scholars. In both programs, we investigate the effects of globalization on our respective research objects, and we attempt to develop new theoretical and methodological frameworks to address them. Both programs collaborate in supervising PhD projects and developing research training trajectories, and maintain an intensive intellectual dialogue among themselves.
The program also connects with the research focus of Babylon, Center for Studies of the Multicultural Society (director Prof. dr. Jan Blommaert), where a multidisciplinary research focus on linguistic, cultural and religious super-diversity and globalization is being developed and consolidated. Through the Babylon network on Language and Globalization, this program is networked to a broad group of international scholars in the field of language and globalization, with whom joint research, publication and funding applications are being organised. The program is consequently global in its outlook and reach.