[lg policy] Feminist research in endangered minority languages

Dave Sayers dave.sayers at CANTAB.NET
Wed Aug 27 09:32:11 UTC 2014

Hello one and all,

There's a laudable tradition in documentary/revival research to empower communities 
to live their own way. This has come under some criticism from the likes of Brian 
Barry for ignoring inequalities within communities, especially the different 
interests between generations. But I haven't seen this important critique taken up 
from a feminist perspective (hopefully because I've just missed it, not because it 
isn't out there). Could anyone point me to documentary/revival research in minority 
language communities that begins from a feminist perspective, i.e. how could 
documentation/revival activities empower women and counter traditional gender-based 
discriminatory practices?

The closest I can think of is revival activities which happen to be run mostly by 
women (language nurseries etc.) but this doesn't seem inherently feminist in its 
motives; one might even argue that this reinforces exploitation of cheap/free female 
labour, depending on how such programmes are funded. In any case, such programmes 
don't *begin* with feminist motives. They begin with an aim to revitalise a language, 
and women happen to become involved. Perhaps those women gain status and respect as a 
result, but that's more of a fortunate by-product than a planned outcome (and in any 
case this could reinforce inequality among the women of that community, perhaps 
correlating with literacy). My point is that language revitalisation programmes which 
appear to be empowering women in some sense may be ignoring or even perpetuating 
wider structural inequalities, and that this may come about because such programmes 
didn't begin from a feminist perspective.

So, on these terms, does anyone know of more centrally feminist-motivated language 
revitalisation activities out there?

And just to be clear ('inb4'), when I mention "traditional gender-based 
discriminatory practices", I'm not assuming that all minority cultures are sexist - 
nor am I looking to pursue some sort of patronising Western-imposing agenda; there 
are much more sensitive, bottom-up ways to empower women.

Thanks in advance for any tips.


Dr. Dave Sayers
Senior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Honorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK
dave.sayers at cantab.net | http://swansea.academia.edu/DaveSayers
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