Multilingual Heritage: Challenging monolingual memorialisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Cultures, Languages and Area Studies


The project aims to investigate the construction of memorial heritage sites through the deployment of local plurilingual repertoires in postcolonial settings, namely Algeria, Cape Verde and Eritrea. Drawing on scholarship relating to critical language policy, Linguistic Landscapes and geosemiotics, the research will explore the role of memory places such as museums, memorials and monuments in addressing issues of social inequality, and foreground to what extent multilingualism challenges the legacies of colonial experiences that can have a significant impact on prosperous and peaceful communal living. This project therefore engages directly with two AHRC priority areas, namely Heritage and Modern Languages, to bridge the gap between existing AHRC projects, all of which currently link multilingualism with education rather than heritage.
This network will bring together researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers from countries which are simplistically described in linguistic terms according to the standard language spoken by the former colonial power. The network will pay critical attention to how multilingualism in memorialisation can address voicelessness by bringing sociolinguistic approaches to bear in questions of heritage. Although the University of Liverpool participants will bring to the network their expertise in multilingualism and language policy, one of the aims of the collaboration is to negotiate research perspectives, practices and aims in order not to impose western-centric methodologies and epistemologies on the investigation of the relevant settings. By embracing the principles of Southern Theory, the project will be grounded in local modalities of memorial narratives and discourses, and integrate alternative experiential universes. This is the ethical stance that informs the project, starting from a first 'agenda setting' meeting of the participants. This will ensure co-creation of shared objectives and outcomes in the respect of local priorities and needs.
There are three planned workshops in Africa, each of which is immediately preceded by a half-day session in the memory place used as a case study and backdrop to the roundtable discussions. This half-day practical session draws on Blackwood and Tufi's expertise in Linguistic Landscape research in order to record and analyse the memory places, involving not only the core network members but also the practitioners and policy-makers. This activity not only shares the latest developments in best practice for data collection and analysis but also provides the material for the evidence-based policy recommendations. The collective analysis of the material recorded in the three memory places facilitates the transnational dimension of the project, drawing on the range of approaches that have evolved in each of the national traditions. The core network members co-lead the three workshops, with a different member of the Advisory Board at each workshop, in order to maximise input from different academic perspectives, using local interpreters to avoid the replications of models of academic interactions which perpetuate the dominance of standard language - and in particular English - in scholarship. Local practitioners, policy-makers, and researchers will attend and contribute actively to the three workshops, each of which will take place in the respective memory places. As such, this network will provide a new narrative on the management of heritage, privileging multilingualism so as to reduce inequalities as well as to develop a shared arena of research.

Planned Impact

Research into the intersection of multilingualism and heritage has been overlooked, in particular in postcolonial Africa. This Network aims to generate impact in terms of transforming policy and encouraging traditionally marginalised ethnic groups to increase and enhance their interaction with their own heritage. The outputs are designed so as to lead directly to impact. This project seeks to synthesise the approaches and findings from across Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone, and Italophone scholarship to co-create new understandings of the benefits of multilingual representations of heritage, and of its visibility in the public space. As such, this project is designed with the explicit intention of changing practices in heritage management, policy-making, and public engagement in order to address social and ethnic marginalisation in the ownership, representation, and display of collective memory for wider consumption.
Practices: we aim to confront long-established practices in heritage management which perpetuate the marginalisation (and in some cases exclusion) of ethno-linguistic groups from the on-going creation and organisation of collective memories in museums and memorials. By meeting in three memory places with representatives from the sites' administrative staff, the project will work directly with those who arrange and curate permanent exhibitions to pursue linguistically inclusive practices in the presentation of important local histories and collections. These representatives will be from the National Teaching and Linguistics Centre for Tamazight in Algiers, the Mudjer Research Network in Cape Verde and Eritrea's Central Region Administration, which is responsible for the implementation of a Conservation Masterplan for Asmara.
Policy: understanding the implications of existing language policies is essential for the creation of effective language management strategies, both within and beyond memory places. The network will support a reconciliation of policy statements and language practices to foster spaces of multilingual communal living and harmonious cultural diversity. Individuals working in or with policy-making within national governments and other agencies (e.g. the Cape Verdean National Commission to UNESCO, Algeria's Ministry of Education and Asmara Heritage Project) have been invited to participate in the workshops. The findings gathered in-country and presented at the three meetings will provide the basis for evidence-based policy recommendations which will, in turn, feed into the toolkit to be freely available across several platforms.
Public Awareness and Engagement: using the Open Access platform of Modern Languages Open (which encourages the publication of heterogeneous outputs and does not involve costly subscriptions), the website, social media, and the three memory places' networks, this project will challenge linguistic ideologies established at the start of the independence era and which are usually the legacy of linguistic attitudes and prejudices instigated during colonial times. The communications strategy that underpins these areas of activity is outlined in full in Pathways to Impact. Through the in-country activities of the network, the project will co-design strategies for campaigns to catalyse a change in cultures around exclusion, invisibility, and voicelessness in the representations of heritage. The design and implementation of spaces of visibility through the material emplacement of local multilingualism will represent a significant contribution to this objective.


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