Panel 2

II. Mobility, Multilingualism, and Language Identities
Chair: Rakesh Bhatt, Linguistics, UIUC

This panel is generously supported by the Braj and Yamuna Kachru lecture series endowment fund, which honors Braj and Yamuna Kachru’s professional legacy, focusing on their areas of research including World Englishes, Language in South Asian Culture and Society, and Indian and South Asian Linguistics.

This panel discusses the socio-linguistic consequences of (mass-)movement, engendered by global political-economic disequilibrium caused by global hegemonic interests.  The panel will specifically focus on analyzing narratives, as anamnesis-in-action, exploring the language-identity structures that memory builds in encounters with new, unfamiliar, different configurations of language dynamics. The theoretical discussion of this panel will demonstrate the ways in which displaced communities respond symbolically to new relations of power and domination between languages in contact, and how they understand their own historical-linguistic identity within a system structured around dependency and unequal development. Especially in new, violent global contexts, the displaced communities display a paradoxical stance: a longing for use of their ethic mother tongue and a strong desire to belong to their community, yet they are at the same time actively engaged in erasing all indexicalities associated with their ethno-linguistic practices. The panel contributions will relate this paradox to sociolinguistic representation and (e)valuation of the displaced communities, especially as each establishes links between the provisional nature of group identity and folk theories of language, language learning and use, and linguistic practices.

Rakesh Bhatt, Linguistics, UIUC
“Mobility, Minority, and Morbidity: Narratives of Displaced Kashmiris”

This paper presents narratives of displaced Kashmiris as metapragmatic evidence of the inextricable linkage of space and time in the production of diaspora identities through the concept of chronotope: the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are rhetorically – metapragmatically–expressed (cf. Bakhtin 1996, Agha 1997, Blommaert & DeFina 2016, Karimzad & Catedral 2017). A chronotopic analysis, I will argue, offers a view of diaspora identities that is dynamically constituted as social practices that refers to different space-time condensations – there and then, here and now, and yet-to-be futurity – as experienced in mobility and displacement. For Kashmiris, displaced under violent conditions (Victim diaspora: Cohen 1999), the doubled chronotopic interpellation – home and host – is weaved into a dominant diasporic chronotope of victimhood, linking their identity-resources to those of the Jewish diaspora.

The narrative data comes from a larger ethnographic study that includes a total of 29 hours of audio-recordings of open-ended/casual conversations and semi-structured interviews. Using a socially-situated, discourse-analytic methodology, I closely examine three metapragmatic commentaries (128 minutes) with respect to the conflict, and its negotiated hybridity, between the time-space constructions of subjectivity in the “home-land” and in the “host-land”.

The analysis demonstrates a particular affective dimension of the Kashmiri diasporic chronotope, of victimhood, as their narratives relate their experiences of morbidity in the past, and the unstable living conditions of the present, to the familiar, and the dominant, chronotope of the Jewish diaspora. The narratives show the systematicity with which the historical self-image of Kashmiris is interdiscursively calibrated—citationally, and measured affectively, with other larger (time-space) events leading up to the holocaust. Furthermore, the narratives of ‘here and now’ (host chronotope) express cultural instability; especially, the loss of their most important symbolic resource, language (identity and practice), in response to new relations of power and domination.

Taraneh Sanei, Linguistics, UIUC
“Experiencing Mobility through Memes: Multimodal Identification Practices Among Transnational Iranians”

My presentation draws from a larger project in which I investigate the various processes through which (trans-)locality/nationality is constructed, experienced, and evaluated in online platforms and explore the utility of specific analytical tools in such investigation. In this talk, I focus specifically on how Internet memes function as a polycentric, multi-layered, and complex third space (Bhabha, 1994) in which young 1st and 2nd generation Iranian immigrants perform their transnationality and navigate their hybrid immigrant identities. Applying Bakhtin’s (1981) concept of chronotope to the multimodal analysis of memes circulated among Iranian immigrants, I explore how social media users draw on a variety of semiotic/linguistic resources, such as code/script choice, to invoke different time-space configurations and recontextualize their experiences authenticating and further nuancing their hybrid identities as transnational Iranians. I argue that the flexibility, intertextuality, and multimodality of memes allow for their creative and agentive adoption/adaptation as chronotpic third space for performing transnationality. I discuss the theoretical and methodological implications and how this work contributes to the scholarship on transnationalism and mobility as well as online sociolinguistics.

Farzad Karimzad, Salisbury University
“Dynamic Normalcies and (Im)Mobile Resources in Multilingual Discourse and Identity”

In this presentation, I draw on recent sociolinguistic and anthropological studies of globalization to lay out the properties of what social actors understand as normal contexts and behaviors – what has also been at the center of talk circulating during the COVID-19 pandemic—and discuss the processes through which these perceptions are dynamically constructed, updated, and solidified. I conceptualize normalcy in terms of a set of chronotopic and scalar relations (Karimzad 2020, 2021; see Bakhtin 1981; Agha 2007; Blommaert 2015; Karimzad & Catedral 2021). To be precise, these perceptions are chronotopic in that they link particular time-space arrangements to images of particular (types of) people, behaviors, materials, discourses, and resources. They are also scalar, meaning that they are organized in relation to multiple other macroscopic and microscopic time-space configurations (see Blommaert & De Fina 2017; Carr & Lempert 2016; Gal 2016). Drawing on data from Iranian Azerbaijani migrants in the U.S., I demonstrate the utility of chronotopic-scalar understandings of normalcy in the analysis of multilingual discourse, as they relate to, for instance, issues of language choice and language mixing, and discuss the broader implications of this approach for sociocultural studies of mobility, identity, and behavior.