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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Ed. by Fishman, Joshua A. / García Otheguy, Ofelia

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ERIH category 2011: INT2

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A critical commentary on the discourse of language rights in the Naivasha language policy in Sudan using habitus as a method

Ashraf Abdelhay1

1Cambridge University

Correspondence address:

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 2010, Issue 206, Pages 21–45, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: 10.1515/ijsl.2010.047, December 2010

Publication History:
Published Online:
2010-12-22

Abstract

This article uses Bourdieu's theory of practice to discuss the discourse of language rights in the Naivasha language policy in Sudan. The article argues that understanding language as a form of practice inseparable from the whole class habitus leads to the avoidance of any monothetic and totalizing discourses that treat language as a self-sufficient code. Instead, it argues for a recognition of the temporality and multidirectionality of language framed in a broad (critical) ethnographic sense. It contends that the statement of language rights in the Naivasha language policy cannot sanctify local languages as media of education unless it addresses the possibilities of creating the economic and social conditions for their use. It is these historical conditions that provide a value to the linguistic habitus of the subjugated groups in the Sudan. The endeavor invites a rethinking of the relationship in language rights campaigns between the academic habitus of linguists and the practical habitus of members of communities. The article concludes by arguing that any technical linguistic activities under the banner of Naivasha language policy that are not informed by the practicalities of everyday life are alienating; hence, they remain reproductive of the existing unequal power relations.

Keywords:: language rights; postcolonial language policy; symbolic power; habitus; Sudan; Arabicization

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