Entangled Relationship between Neoliberalism, English and Ethnolinguistic Activism in Nepal

Prem Phyak and Bal Krishna Sharma

Recent studies have critically looked at the impact of neoliberalism on discourses, policies and practices on language (Canagarajah, 2017; Kubota, 2014; Flores, 2013). These studies have critically analyzed the collusion of discourses of multilingualism with economic interests of neoliberal market and highlight the need for understanding complex entanglements of neoliberal ideologies in language policy discourses. As Canagarajah (2017) argues, the analysis of the link between neoliberalism and linguistic diversity contributes to gaining ideological clarity needed for “more ethical and inclusive language competencies, dispositions, and practices” (p. 2). Building on the centrality of ‘ideological clarification’ (Kroskrity, 2009), this paper explores how neoliberalism has created moral and ethical tensions among Nepal’s linguistic minoritized communities in prompting multilingualism and discuss their engagement with those tensions to capitalize both local and global linguistic resources. Drawing on data from our ongoing ethnographic study on the impact of neoliberalism in Nepal’s educational discourses, we analyze how parents from linguistic minoritized communities enact ‘linguistic entrepreneurship’ (De Costa, Park & Wee, 2016) in their narratives of linguistic diversity. First, we discuss neoliberal ideologies that have contributed to the expansion of English in Nepal’s educational policies and analyze the place of English in linguistic minoritized parents’ linguistic entrepreneurship. Following this, we discuss construction of linguistic minoritized parents’ dilemmatic language ideologies regarding linguistic diversity in the context of simultaneous influences of neoliberalism and ethnolinguistic activism. Our analysis focuses on impact of neoliberal enactments such as exportation of migrant workers, privatization of education, and increasing international development aid-agencies in minoritized peoples’ linguistic entrepreneurship narratives. Our key finding suggests that English-added multilingualism in Nepal, observed particularly in recent times, is linked to broader societal changes in both local and global human mobility and imaginations, mostly motivated by the economic ideologies of language.

Previous Post
Next Post
Scroll Up