Failed Languages: Contingency in Linguistic Nationalism
Call for Papers Date:
This edited volume seeks to examine failed linguistic nationalism from a historical perspective. Authors are invited to propose case studies. Contributions should introduce non-specialists to a failed linguistic concept in its social and historical context. Who imagined or promoted the failed national language, when, and from what motives? What sort of following did the movement attract? When and why did the concept ultimately lose support? What does the rise and fall of this national language reveal about the constraints imposed on “inventing” or “imagining” linguistic nations?
Several recent monographs have examined contingency in nationalism. Throughout the “age of nationalism,” several specific national projects have failed: national concepts flourish for a season only to be abandoned in favor of some competing concept. Several scholars have, for example, examined failed national ideas in the Slavic Balkans: Baruch Wachtel charted the idea of a Yugoslav nation through several reincarnations, and Dejan Djokic’s volume on Yugoslavia contains several ‘histories of a failed idea.’ More intriguingly, Larry Wolff has traced the idea that Slavs in Dalmatia were “Morlacci”: his work gives us the history of a potential national movement that subsequently vanished.
Nationalism, furthermore, often has a linguistic component, and a considerable literature examines political struggles waged over the status of linguistic collectives. Most serious linguists and sociolinguists distance themselves from what might be called ‘dialect arguments,’ ubiquitously and correctly dismissing the language/dialect dichotomy as unscientific and hopelessly politicized. Scholars of nationalist thought, however, may find such conflicts profitable sites of political analysis. This approach to history of linguistic thought, which perhaps forms an underdeveloped branch of the history of science, offers many potential insights into the contingent process of nation-building, and the external constraints thereon.
Struggles over linguistic status obviously reflect competing national concepts, yet they are not simple proxies for national struggles. Sticking with the Slavic Balkans, one may note that the failed Yugoslav national concept encompassed (Yugoslav) Macedonia and Slovenia up until its collapse in the 1990s, but the failed “Serbo-Croat” language abandoned its claim to Macedonia and Slovene after the Second World War. Other examples could be drawn from elsewhere in the world.
The volume welcomes studies either of abortive separatist movements that failed to win recognition as a distinct national language (e.g. a Moravian language distinct from Czech, Occitanian distinct from French, Bavarian distinct from German, Dalmatian, Gallego, Scots, etc.) or of large national languages that have subsequently splintered into smaller parts (e.g. Russian imagined as having “Great Russian, Little Russian and White Russian” dialects, particularly as seen from Ukraine or Belarus; the “Slovene-Serbo-Croat” language of the First Yugoslav Republic; Danish as the language of Norway, etc.) Authors are encouraged to submit other possible topics.
Language policy in a multi-ethnic state is beyond the scope of this project. The editor would welcome a study about the relationship between Swiss-German and German, for example, but German-French relations inside Switzerland would not be relevant. Similarly, this volume is not interested in advocacy. The project starts from the assumption that linguistic concepts are most profitably analyzed not as ‘correct’ or ‘false,’ but in terms of the political claims that they articulate. Contributions should not reveal which national language concept, if any, the author supports.
Contributors should aim to produce article-length essays as MS Word documents, written in English, using MLA style footnotes. Some proofreading is available for non-native speakers of English. So far, possible contributors are examining Samogitian (as distinct from Lithuanian), Silesian (as distinct from Polish) and Moldovan (as distinct from Romanian). This East-European focus reflects the research focus of the editor, who has been working on Slovak linguistic nationalism, but the final volume may include case studies from across the globe. In any event, all interested authors are encouraged to contact the editor, regardless of geographic specialization.
Alexander Maxwell, History Department
Victoria University, Wellington
Send comments and questions to H-Net
Webstaff. H-Net reproduces announcements that have been submitted to us as a
free service to the academic community. If you are interested in an announcement
listed here, please contact the organizers or patrons directly. Though we strive
to provide accurate information, H-Net cannot accept responsibility for the text of
announcements appearing in this service. (Administration)