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Next TNS seminar: “The Language of Others: Writing Berlin Lives”


The next Centre for Transnational Studies (TNS) seminar will take place on Wednesday 22nd February 2017 from 5:00-6:30pm, in Building 65, Room 1177, and is entitled “The Language of Others: Writing Berlin Lives”. The seminar will be presented by Professor Patrick Stevenson from Modern Languages at the University of Southampton. All welcome!

Here is the abstract for this seminar:

Berlin is a multicultural and multilingual city in the heart of Europe. But what do we know about the number of languages spoken by its inhabitants and how they are used in everyday life? How do encounters with different languages impact on the experience of migration? And how do people use their experiences with language to shape their life stories?

Research on the increasing complexity of urban societies has highlighted different dimensions of diversity in terms of language knowledge and linguistic practices. Home language surveys, for example, reveal the vast range of languages used in major European cities and their spatial distribution; many studies have been devoted to research on innovative styles of ‘mixed’ language use, both in face-to-face interaction and in mediated forms; and increasing attention has been paid to visual manifestations of language in creating cityscapes. In this seminar, I would like to talk about how these demographic, interactional and representational approaches can be complemented by a biographical perspective as a contribution towards a multi-dimensional understanding of what Ingrid Gogolin calls the ‘linguistic texture of migration societies’.

The talk will draw on research in inner city districts of Berlin characterized by a high degree of migration and multilingualism. It will focus on an attempt to process ways in which individual migrants reflect on how their experience with language has shaped their transnational life worlds. Drawing inspiration from research in sociolinguistics, social anthropology and documentary journalism, I will explore this theme through the language biographies of inhabitants of a single apartment block, which in its changing ethnic and linguistic composition is a kind of metaphor for life in the contemporary city.

Patrick Stevenson’s new book on ‘Berlin Lives’ is available here and includes a special e-book offer (until 21 February).

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