Critical postcolonial linguistics and the discursive construction of the (post)colonial self
Antje Hornscheidt (Scandinavian linguistics and gender studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany)
Postcolonial criticism is mainly based on detailed analyses of various discursive manifestations of colonial and imperial ideologies. As a part of this, the construction of self and other/s within a colonial frame has become a central object of research. Here, language as a tool and a medium for constructing ideological meanings plays a central role; it has become a primary focus of postcolonial analyses. There are a number of linguistic studies focusing on the interrelationship of language, linguistics and colonialism especially in colonial situations and with regard to language planning (see e.g. Blommaert 1999, Calvet 1998, Fabian 1986, Irvine 1995). However, when colonialism is under investigation in linguistics, it is mainly understood as a central factor for the colonized societies. The influence of colonial activities on the colonizers and their languages and discourses has not yet been profoundly reflected in its various dimensions. I would like to propose the development of a critical postcolonial linguistics to be integrated in a transdisciplinary postcolonial studies project. Linguistics, especially linguistic investigations within a perspective-pragmatic approach (Verschueren 1999), could give important and interesting insights into processes of verbal constructions of (post)colonial identities. I would like to emphasize that this process is twofold: not only are the (former) colonized constructed as others in colonial discourses but the (post)colonizers are constructed in those discourses in their ‘normalized’ and universalized positions as well.
The claim for a critical postcolonial linguistics is thus understood as crucial to research in and for linguistics and can be even connected to Critical Whiteness Studies (Hornscheidt 2005) and the recently established concept of Critical Occidentalism (Hornscheidt/Dietze 2006) with respect to the questioning of hegemonic norms which have to be part of this project. In my presentation, I will give numerous examples from my concrete research on different postcolonial discourses (advertisements, monolingual dictionaries) and how the former colonizing societies re/construct themselves here in a positive and neutralizing way.