Monday, 13 February 2012

Ideologies in action

Jaffe, A. (1999) Ideologies in action: language politics on Corsica. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

In her ethnographic study of Corsican language policy, Jaffe (1999) argues that it is vey difficult to resist and challenge monolingual ideology (French in Corsica) as it is deeply embedded in social institutions like school. Spending fourteen months in a rural Corsican village and discussion with languages planners, she found that there is growing activism to resist French domination and to preserve Corsican language and identity. The study also found that there is lack of grass-roots support for Corsican language teaching in the state schools. She comments this phenomenon can be ‘understood as a consequence of the deep-rootedness of the diglossic system of value and identity’ in which French holds superiority’ (p.25). In addition, ‘assimilation and accommodation to dominant society is rewarded. The social and economic rewards of French education for many Corsicans have implicitly validated dominant models of cultural and linguistic identity and value’ (p.272). Since French is the legitimized language, Corsican language activists are constrained by the power of the dominant language in everyday discourse. As Corsican lacks long literary history, strong oral tradition and socio-economic currency, Corsicans mask their own linguistic identity and assimilate with the powerful ‘habitus’ which is reproduced by dominant language ideology and educational discourse. Jaffee claims that ‘the hegemony of dominant language ideologies is never complete’ (p.283).  Corsican case implies that it is very difficult to resist dominant language ideology as it is often associated with power and economy. The the minority language speakers’ ambivalent position regarding the choice of language as the medium of instruction in school is resulted due to covert counter-resistance of the dominant language with its legitimization through laws and through its control over the market. As Jaffee argues such ‘forms of legitimizations are rooted in dominant ideologies of language and identity that are influential in any number of minority language context across the  globe’ (p. 284), comparative ethnography can be foundation for understanding various issues and dynamics of minority language education and revitalization plans.