English economies: Everyday accounts of language in South Africa
Enter plain text and/or HTML tags.
English is rapidly assuming an almost hegemonic position in South Africa as a public language - and therefore also in visions of public space and an assumed national identity. This process, however, whereby the symbolic capital of English is inflated in South Africa, is seldom commented upon. Even a critical and transgressive conference like this, with its focus on global markets and the local political effects of neoliberal ideology, tacitly reproduces English as a neutral and transparent medium of public communication - at least in the marketplace of academic exchange. In this paper I will explore everyday usages of the neoliberal themes of individualism and the universal logic of markets (financial as well as cultural and linguistic) in the construction of English as at once a global and a South African language. The data is drawn from an ongoing study on everyday accounts of language diversity and different languages in South Africa. I will argue that the neoliberal themes of individualism and a universalism based on the logic of markets affirm English as a language of rational choice for public use in South Africa. However, they also hide from view the way other languages are barred from public domains, from the development of a South African identitity, and are blamed for the fracturing of public life along racial and ethnic lines.
Exit without saving