TNS Seminar Wednesday 22nd February: Prof Patrick Stevenson

Please join us for the next Centre for Transnational Studies (TNS) seminar.

When: Wednesday 22nd February, 5-6.30pm

Where: Building 65, Room 1177, Avenue Campus

Who: Prof Patrick Stevenson, University of Southampton

The Language of Others: Writing Berlin Lives

Berlin is a multicultural and multilingual city in the heart of Europe. But what do we know about the number of languages spoken by its inhabitants and how they are used in everyday life? How do encounters with different languages impact on the experience of migration? And how do people use their experiences with language to shape their life stories?

Research on the increasing complexity of urban societies has highlighted different dimensions of diversity in terms of language knowledge and linguistic practices. Home language surveys, for example, reveal the vast range of languages used in major European cities and their spatial distribution; many studies have been devoted to research on innovative styles of ‘mixed’ language use, both in face-to-face interaction and in mediated forms; and increasing attention has been paid to visual manifestations of language in creating cityscapes. In this seminar, I would like to talk about how these demographic, interactional and representational approaches can be complemented by a biographical perspective as a contribution towards a multi-dimensional understanding of what Ingrid Gogolin calls the ‘linguistic texture of migration societies’.

The talk will draw on research in inner city districts of Berlin characterized by a high degree of migration and multilingualism. It will focus on an attempt to process ways in which individual migrants reflect on how their experience with language has shaped their transnational life worlds. Drawing inspiration from research in sociolinguistics, social anthropology and documentary journalism, I will explore this theme through the language biographies of inhabitants of a single apartment block, which in its changing ethnic and linguistic composition is a kind of metaphor for life in the contemporary city.

You might like to read the short extracts before the seminar to get a flavour of the study.

Patrick Stevenson’s new book on ‘Berlin Lives’ is available here and includes a special e-book offer (until 21 February):

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