Nasir, Aftab: Language choice as a gate-keeping practice : an exploration into the psycho-social impacts of multilingualism through case studies from the educational and judicial sectors of Pakistan. - Bonn, 2020. - Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
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author = {{Aftab Nasir}},
title = {Language choice as a gate-keeping practice : an exploration into the psycho-social impacts of multilingualism through case studies from the educational and judicial sectors of Pakistan},
school = {Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn},
year = 2020,
month = jan,

note = {Pakistan is a multilingual and multi-ethnic country: all the provinces have their own regional languages as lingua franca, i.e., Punjabi in Punjab, Pashto in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, etc.; Urdu is the national language, i.e., it is the language of majority of the state schools and of the media; whereas English, owing to its colonial past, is the official language of Pakistan, i.e., it is the language of the official transactions, the constitution, law and higher education in the country. Such division means that individuals may have to switch from one language to another when they move from home to school, to work settings, or to official business in public or private offices. The analysis of the data collected from different sites (educational and judicial sectors) reveals how and why the discourses of differential use of languages, created and shaped by the educational institutes, are affected by the overall linguistic attitudes existing in society towards different languages. This research concludes that, on the societal level, this differential language system excludes those who do not know a particular language, i.e., English, and disempowers them structurally from getting their due share of state-provided services, such as justice and education.
In 2013, all the stakeholders working for the development of Pakistan, both public and private, came together and agreed upon an agenda for development, called Vision 2025. This document is an aspirational tool to be used as a conceptual framework for steering the country into the direction of sustainable and inclusive development. The aim of this vision is to bring Pakistan among the top 25 world economies by year 2025. In order to see whether such ambitious attempts, as outlined in the document, complement or contradict the already existing social realities and discourses of development remains central theme to the current research. In this regard, language policies, perceptions, attitudes, and daily practices become the lens that is used to investigate the relation between the theoretical aspirations and practical situations on the ground.
Language choice becomes a contested field in a multilingual society. Any act of speech in such societies is a political act, where different languages are chosen for different purposes. In a contemporary globalized world where one language, i.e., English enjoys the most acceptance; those who know better English acquire added leverage and symbolic power over others in everyday interactions of members of Pakistani society. This dissertation maintains that fascination with English in the context of Pakistan is actually a colonial legacy that has worked towards establishing and perpetuating symbolic superiority against other languages and speakers of those languages in contemporary Pakistani society.
My contribution departs from the traditional themes of political economy of nation-state models that focus on the broader themes of nation-building and the issues of governance, identity and marginality in a post-colonial nation(s). I attempt to address the questions of power and distribution of linguistic resources in Pakistani polity from a sociological angle. In the following pages, I specifically conceptualise and analyse the social practices, attitudes and discourses of marginality and identity construction along linguistic lines by using the concepts of habitus, field, capital, and symbolic power. This dissertation tries to untangle multilingualism from two broad themes: 1) it addresses the questions of the sociocultural dominance of English and Urdu languages over regional languages; 2) it shows how the distribution of linguistic resources is contested, negotiated and reproduced in the praxis of the stakeholders interacting in a multilingual setting.
In order to conduct an empirical investigation, two sectors are selected, i.e., the educational and judicial sectors of Pakistan. The rationale behind this choice is both theoretical and practical. The educational sector is selected as it becomes the seedbed where discourses and perceptions are produced and reproduced for the official and legitimate practices of language use; whereas, the judicial sector is selected as it links directly with the manifestation of these discourses and perceptions. It is in the judicial sector, where one sees the direct effects of knowing or not knowing a specific language manifested as every letter, word, and comma, matters in the judicial proceedings. An institute that is responsible for disseminating justice to the citizens of the state, the judicial system uses a language (English) that is alien to the majority of Pakistani population. For example, only in the Punjab province, around 45% of the total population speaks Punjabi, whereas only 4-7% can speak or understand English, yet the judicial system in its official discourse conducts all its business in English. The laws, court proceedings, and verdicts disseminated in various trials in the judicial courts are conducted in English. This research aims at finding out whether this very act of conducting judicial proceedings in English disenfranchises the masses from the system.
A mixed-method research design was used to investigate these questions at the public universities and judicial courts in Pakistan. The question remains if and how the choice of language in education can become a tool for estrangement and exclusion. Discourses of development and language-based inequality seem to exist next to each other, weaved seamlessly in the overall social fabric, habitus, of the contemporary Pakistani society. The empirical evidence from the educational institutes further elaborates why a certain language, e.g., English, is preferred at the expense of others. What kind of benefits and disadvantages are entailed in knowing or not knowing English and what kind of identities are associated with English and other languages, such as Punjabi. The underlying generative principle, habitus, combines this language-based inequality with development in a way that current education policy actually perpetuates ideologies, perceptions and practices of social inequalities. These structurally inculcated distinctive principles inadvertently “convince” the dominated, the less-advantaged, into accepting the conditions of his/her own dominance as natural, thereby resulting in symbolic constraint. Moreover, this research shows how language is used as an aspirational capacity for social mobility and what hurdles, both social and psychological, students face in using this capacity in their prospective lives.
Historically speaking, after the independence of Pakistan, the British rulers left in 1947, but the unequal social spaces they created stayed behind as these arrangements suited those who were already working under the British rule. Under such conditions and neo-colonial patterns of life, there emerges a hybrid form of speech; one where words of Urdu, English, Punjabi or other regional languages are inter-mixed. An act of using a signifier of one language, say English, while speaking in another language, say Urdu or Punjabi, results in providing extra leverage, symbolic superiority, and authority to the speaker.
This hybrid speech serves two purposes; a) it keeps the power inequality intact as it renders one language, i.e., English, superior over all other local languages, and b) it helps to appease those who, not having the capacity to compete in the English dominant market, nevertheless remain at the periphery of the circle, trying to carve out their own spaces. Thus the linguistic interactions, eventually and inadvertently, result in shaping, reproducing, and reinforcing the sociological habitus that in the first place creates social inequalities generated by varied use of languages for various purposes. Therefore, it is argued that the official discourse of sustainable development, though promising in principle, stands miles away from the social realities of development of Pakistan. The development experts, both national and international, have to consider the socially participative model of development in order to address the pressing challenges of nation-building as compared to state-building as far as the language related problems of the Pakistani society are concerned.},

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