Articulating language oppression: colonialism, coloniality and the erasure of Tibet’s minority languages
journal contributionposted on 03.08.2021, 23:38 by Gerald RocheGerald Roche
Roche’s article discusses ‘language oppression’ as a form of domination that is coherent with other forms of oppression along the lines of ‘race’, nation, colour and ethnicity. Scholars have defined language oppression as the ‘enforcement of language loss by physical, mental, social and spiritual coercion’. It is part of an evolving suite of concepts from linguistics, sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology that examines issues of language discrimination, or ‘linguicism’. Roche explores one aspect of linguicism—language erasure—and how it relates to language oppression, focusing on Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He examines how language oppression is produced through practices of erasure: the ways in which certain populations and their languages are systematically rendered discursively invisible. He argues that the erasure of certain languages in the Tibetan context is systematically reproduced by two otherwise opposed political projects: the colonial project of the PRC state; and the international Tibet movement that seeks to resist it. He refers to the contingent cooperation between these two opposed projects as ‘articulated oppression’. In concluding the article he examines how the disarticulation of this oppression is a necessary condition for the emancipation of Tibet’s minority languages, and discusses the broader significance of this study for understanding language oppression, and its relation to other forms of oppression.