• Language and identity in an Indian diaspora: “Multiculturalism” and ethno-linguistic communities in Mauritius

    Author(s):
    Patrick Eisenlohr (see profile)
    Date:
    2002
    Group(s):
    Anthropology
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/83gc-r394
    Abstract:
    In this essay I focus on language among people of South Asian background in a diasporic location, Mauritius, for two reasons. First, language has often been considered as one of the cultural elements whose persistence may yield clues about the production of diasporic identity. However, diasporas do not exist objectively on the basis of a documented historical case of migration, voluntary or involuntary, but through the labor of memory, and the conceptual transformation of places of departure into “homelands.” Therefore, the condition of diaspora is a cultural category, which may change over time, and in whose emergence ideas about language can play an important role. Second, language plays a crucial role in theories of nationalism, most notably Anderson’s account of the rise of national “imagined communities,” and ethno-nationalism in turn plays a crucial role in the formation of diasporic communities in Mauritius. The Mauritian example discussed here stresses the significance of imagined ancestral languages as opposed to languages used in daily practice or regularly consumed in print-media for ideas of ethno-national belonging. The Mauritian scenario suggests that the link between language and community formation is not immanent in the functionality of communication, but rather mediated through linguistic ideologies, which in the case presented here manifest as imagined ancestral languages.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
    License:
    Attribution

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