March 23-University Lecture Series - Carnegie Mellon University

The Humanities Center Lectures, 2010-11:
Identities in Conflict: The Recognition of Migrants

Languages in Conflict: Migrants and the Monolingual Nation-State

Jennifer Gully, Wednesday, March 23, 2011

12:00 noon, Baker Hall 154R

Jennifer Gully, Humanities Center Fellow

For some time now, the “one country, one language” model has appeared as a normal state of affairs towards which one should strive. Less than a natural condition, the monolingual nature of the modern nation-state must be continually reproduced, and governments have contrived an elaborate linguistic infrastructure to spread and uphold the national language in all corners of their territories and all spheres of communication. Policies of language, education, and the media all work for the common goal of a monolingualism that is presented as conducive to democracy and efficient for business. In this talk, I will discuss the impact of recent migration to the Western nation-states on our prevailing concept of a single national language. Using examples from both traditional immigration destinations (the U.S.) and the newer receiving countries (primarily Germany), I trace some connections between language, immigration, and the law, directing my attention to instances in which symbolic borders such as those between languages attain material weight in the regulation of nation-state borders.

Jennifer Gully recently completed her PhD in Comparative Literature at UCLA. She is currently working on a book manuscript, “The Clash of Languages: Translation, Literature, and the Nation-State.” Her interests lie in the field of language policies, changing linguistic identities, and the representation of migration in literary language. In her current research, she compares immigration law in the United States and the German-speaking countries, asking how and when language becomes a relevant legal category.