Contemporary global-North conceptual webs-of-understandings on the boundedness of normal languaging and normal diversity

Authors: Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta (Jönköping University, Sweden)
Giulia Messina Dahlberg (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
Speakers: Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta, Giulia Messina Dahlberg
Topic: Ethnographical Language Work
COMELA 2021 General Session


Against the backdrop of epistemological flows vis-à-vis increasing diversity – and thus new communicative practices, neologisms like Translanguaging and Nyanlända (Swedish: “newly-arrived”) have quickly been embraced in Swedish policy directives and frameworks. This paper traces the emergence of some central concepts in the language sciences (“bi/multi/pluri/semilingualism”, “trans/languaging”) and the literature on migration studies and globalization (“super/hyper/diversity”, “im/migrants/newly-arrived”). Theoretically framed in the emerging intersectional area of a Second Wave of Southern Perspectives (SWaSP), that builds upon presuppositions from both sociocultural and decolonial perspectives (Bagga-Gupta 2018), this study illuminates the ways in which nomenclature shifts and “academic branding” (Pavlenko 2017) contribute towards (or confound) communication and diversity issues in Swedish society in general and sectors of higher education, research and school education more specifically. Here, social practices across analogue and digital settings, where the focus is on individuals interacting with one another and tools, and where locality and spatiality are not always bound to the four walls of institutional learning settings, claim analytical attention.

Drawing upon multidisciplinary ethnographical projects at the Communication, Culture and Diversity, CCD research group ( and analysis of “naturally” occurring social practices, including textual data, this study specifically asks how a neologism like Translanguaging differs from what is “normal languaging”, and what neologisms like Nyanlända or Super/hyperdiversity offer in comparison to “normal diversity”? What, in other words, we ask is normal languaging and normal diversity?

The results shed light on the diversifying conceptual hegemony in how the boundedness of language and identity have been and are being framed in the language and educational sciences in some global-North spaces in general and in Swedish nation-state spaces in particular. In parallel, the analysis highlights the continuing marginalization of scholarship from global South-North settings where social practices vis-à-vis linguistic heterogeneity are centre-staged. SWaSP framings highlight the meaning-making potential of the deployment of linguistic, material and embodied resources in the course of everyday life in and across settings. In addition to pointing to issues that can emerge when boundaries between named-languages are unreflectively maintained, SWaSP also calls attention to a South in global-North settings like Sweden. Finally, the paper empirically illustrates how studies of “languaging” (Jorgensen 2008, Linell 2009) and “identiting” (Bagga-Gupta 2017) across time and global North-South spaces, including digital sites, can open up alternative ways of reframing what language and identity are and can be (Bagga-Gupta 2017, Butler 1999, Finnegan 2015, Gramling 2016, Messina Dahlberg 2015).

Keywords: Languaging, Chaining, Meaning-Making, Identity-positioning, Second Wave of Southern Perspectives