Ethnic Protest and Social Planning: A Look at Basque Language Revival

Essay Excerpt

Thus, in what follows I want to sketch out briefly the historical conditions in which Basques came to regard language planning as a necessary and logical way of resisting cultural assimilation. Secondly, I want to discuss what some of the effects have been. The effects I wish to discuss are not those that typically concern sociolinguists or political activists. That is, I will not address whether or not planning efforts have been successful at reversing the decline of Basque use, or what new socioeconomic advantages have resulted from these measures. These are obviously important questions to explore. However, here I wish to examine how, in the course of the language revival movement, Basques have acquired a new understanding of the meaning of their linguistic behavior. Specifically, I argue that the use of social scientific theories and methods in the political discourse of the language movement has served to recast the relationships between language and identity, and language and social power. These shifts in meaning, in turn, are linked to new practices - new ways of using language and strategies to regulate its use. My concern is thus not just with describing "ideological" changes, but with the link between new forms of knowledge and practices. Finally, I wish to conclude with a few general comments on the relevance of this case study to the study of power and political discourse in contemporary societies. (Urla, 380) 

About the Author

Dr. Jacqueline Urla is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She has done long term ethnographic research on the Basque language revival movement examining such issues as language standardization, youth community media projects, music, and the political uses of language censuses.At the same time, she also teaches and writes about gender, sexuality and the body; the anthropology of Europe; ethnographic theory and method. She teaches courses in the politics and poetics of visual anthropology and has started a digital ethnographic video lab. Dr. Urla also direct the Modern European Studies Program, an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor, and the Anthropology Department's European Fieldstudies Program.

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