Academic conference aims to 'decenter English' in higher ed

Neetu Chandak
New York Campus Correspondent

  • Worried that “xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise,” organizers of a recent academic conference invited presenters to “decenter English as the de facto language” of academia.
  • The Society for Social Studies of Science is particularly concerned that English is the official language of both the US and the UK, whose current policies they say "send a message of insulation and parochialism to the world."
  • Worried that “xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise,” organizers of a recent academic conference invited presenters to “decenter English as the de facto language” of academia.

    Specifically, the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) invited presenters at its Annual Meeting—held in Boston from August 30 through September 2—to hand in research papers in languages other than English to promote “linguistic pluralism.”

    "4S recognizes that xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise in many places."   

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    “While English has become a scientific lingua franca that has been favoured in communications and networking across the globe, it is the official language of just a handful of countries, most prominently the United States of America and the United Kingdom,” the appeal notes, asserting that “the current policies of these two countries send a message of insulation and parochialism to the world, explicitly threatening the richness and importance of human difference.”

    Despite their aversion to the English language, though, the organizers do specify that all presentations must come with English translations “to secure full understanding of each presentation.”

    They also acknowledge that the initiative will be “a collective experiment...in which we’ll trial different ways in which presenters can express their ideas in the language with which they feel most comfortable,” encouraging presenters to be creative with their approaches.

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    The conference also features presentations (in English) lamenting the contemporary political situation, including a roundtable discussion called “Presidential Plenary: Interrogating ‘the Threat’” that asked scholars to consider how they can “move through the discourses of fear that dominate the framing of contemporary ‘threats.”

    Another session explores “Reproductive Justice and Injustice,” using Boston’s history of “activism around reproductive health, rights, and justice” as a reference point.

    “At this historical moment, we have witnessed an explosion of new reproductive techno-possibilities for some, even while individual rights and reproductive autonomy for others have been severely curtailed,” the online description states. “With the rise of authoritarian governments across the world we are witnessing renewed assaults on bodily freedoms.”

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    Viewing the matter through the lens of “local and global activism,” the description adds that participants will “assess the landscape of reproductive politics and policies today, theorize new frames for reproductive justice, and explore progressive possibilities for the future.”

    Campus Reform reached out to conference organizers for comment, but did not receive any response in time for publication.

    Follow Campus Reform on Twitter: @CampusReform





    Neetu Chandak

    Neetu Chandak

    New York Campus Correspondent

    Neetu is a New York Campus Correspondent, and reports on liberal bias and abuse on her campus and around the state for Campus Reform. Neetu is a Communications major at Cornell University, where she works with Network for Enlightened Women.

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