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Open Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Ehrhart, Sabine

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From the Logic of Elimination to the Logic of the Gift: Towards a Decolonial Theory of Tlingit Language Revitalization

William A. Geiger
Published Online: 2017-09-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0011


In this article, Tlingit language revitalization is approached through theories of decolonization, critiques of colonialism, and philosophies of liberation. Instructional programs for the endangered Tlingit language are urgently necessary, but the residual structures of colonialism make the successful implementation and reception of such programs extremely difficult. Patrick Wolfe’s notion of the “logic of elimination” is used to demonstrate the persistent nature of colonialism in the Tlingit context. Through that lens, the dispossession of Tlingit territory, culture, and language by the settler-colonial system can be viewed as ongoing processes rather than concluded past events. Concrete examples are used to demonstrate the empirical effects of colonial elimination campaigns in the Tlingit context. The work of Nelson Maldonado-Torres is also enlisted, as he articulates a notion of decolonization predicated on “the logic of the gift.” I bring together these “logics” of (de) colonization to advance a speculative theory of revitalization as a movement from the logic of elimination to the logic of the gift. This has implications for language revitalization in general and Tlingit language revitalization in particular. I argue that revitalization must begin in an affirmation of the Tlingit language based on critical, militant, and loving acts of listening.

Keywords : Alaska Native languages; Tlingit language; settler colonialism; coloniality; decolonization; language shift; language revitalization; ethics


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About the article

Received: 2016-11-24

Accepted: 2017-06-26

Published Online: 2017-09-02

Published in Print: 2017-08-28

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 219–235, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0011.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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