Is social class relevant in constructing a multilingual Europe?

Stef Slembrouck, James Collins

English, Ghent University, Belgium, Anthropology, University at Albany, SUNY, USA

WS153: Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives

This paper will attempt to address how class formations are connected to multilingualism in contexts of immigration/diaspora, by drawing on cases from Ghent, Belgium and Albany, USA. The key question addressed is whether and how differences in social class are invoked explicitly or implicitly in relation to immigrant populations, educational achievement and the evaluation of language use and multilingual proficiencies. Cross-national comparison indicates that there are considerable differences.

Specific questions will include: How are class formations connected to (il)legality and the racialisation/ethnicisation of immigrant populations? To what extent is social class more generally perceived in a specific societal context as a problem to successful multilingual proficiency and educational achievement? Is class privilege subsequently to be understood in terms of (older, male-oriented) interpretations of the conditions of economic production/employment or should its relevance also be analysed in terms of (more female-oriented) positions in the consumption of institutions, incl. schools, media, etc. – as indeed has been the case in more recent sociological and social-theoretical work? Does social class feature as an explanatory factor in educational debate and policy statements, particularly when the topic of discussion is that of language immersion and/or the role of home language as an explanandum for academic progress and success? How are evaluative perceptions about language and multilingual proficiency affected by class-differences within groups of immigration populations?

The paper will draw on (educational) policy statements, excerpts from media debate and interview data with teachers, educators and immigrants.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 18