Chronotopicity: The Inseparability of Time and Space

This month we are publishing Chronotopic Identity Work: Sociolinguistic Analyses of Cultural and Linguistic Phenomena in Time and Space edited by Sjaak Kroon and Jos Swanenberg. In this post the editors discuss how their book explores the concept of chronotopicity.

How often have you encountered a colleague, for instance at an international sociolinguistics conference, who started talking to you about Bakhtin? And how often did you subsequently engage in a somewhat vague and not very satisfying discussion about some of Bakhtin’s central concepts like heteroglossia or chronotopicity?

Over the last few years, chronotopicity has received renewed attention, not only in the field of literary studies where Bakhtin coined it, but also in other scientific fields. The inseparability of time and space also applies to, for example, social interaction and recently several scholars have shed new light on the possible contributions of the concept of chronotopicity to theorizing in sociolinguistics. This almost automatically led to questions on whether and how the concept could be used in empirical, mainly ethnographically-oriented sociolinguistic research.

In our edited volume Chronotopic Identity Work, we attempt to bring together a variety of empirical studies that put some flesh on the bones of the rather abstract chronotopic theorizing as presented thus far in the field of sociolinguistics. By doing so, we aim to show how Bakhtin’s concept of chronotopicity can be used for unraveling the intricate relationships between language, culture and identity in an era of globalization, digitalization and superdiversity.

Our cooperation with colleagues who agreed to face the challenge of using chronotopicity as a central concept in their research has taken us to:

  • young adults in Mongolia interacting on Facebook through mixed and inverted language practices;
  • fame-seeking identity plays by so-called baifumei (white, rich, beautiful, young women), within the Chinese ‘attention economy’;
  • changes in picturing bureaucratic personhood through descriptions with deictics in local newspapers in Indonesia;
  • touristic entertainment in a former traditional rural neighborhood in China;
  • the commodification of cultural heritage and identity work in an ethnic minority community in Enshi, China;
  • navigations of teachers and students between different language regimes in a multicultural school in Denmark;
  • normative behavior and attitudes regarding different language resources in and around school situations in the Netherlands;
  • the construction and meaning of Polish identity in an immigrant community in a superdiverse neighborhood in Belgium.

We think this collection of sociolinguistic analyses through the lens of chronotopicity clearly illustrates how the concept can be used in empirical research and how it contributes to the understanding of identity work in relation to the context of time and space.

Sjaak Kroon and Jos Swanenberg

Department of Culture Studies & Babylon, Center for the Study of Superdiversity, Tilburg University (The Netherlands)

a.p.c.swanenberg@uvt.nl

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain.

Multilingualism – An Asset or A Threat?

We recently published Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain. In this post the editors explain the themes covered in the book.

Like many others in our profession, the two of us are highly mobile people. Each of us changed countries in order to take up our current academic positions – Kristine commutes between the small European country of Luxembourg and the UK, and Jennie relocated from the United States to Canada – and of course our work as linguists is full of regular trips both of the “long-haul” and “short hop” variety.

Even as much of the world we live in considers this kind of mobility of privileged white professional academics as unremarkable, though, the mobility of other kinds of people – such as those from the global South – is often considered far more problematic. While some of us can claim the right to call ourselves “skilled worker immigrants” or even “expats” (a term that conjures up a sort of glamorous yet highly temporary “just passing through” lifestyle), others are dismissed by the societies we live in as “foreign workers” or “migrants”.

It is not all that different with multilingualism. Some forms of it are regarded as an asset or even as an essential skill (such as learning English or French in school and making use of those languages in an eventual work setting), while others can often be deemed problematic or even threatening to national unity. In the end, whether language is a resource, a barrier, or even a site of struggle will tend to come down to who you are, which languages you speak, and especially which contexts you are trying to use those languages in.

Our new book is about what mobility means in different circumstances, some of the different ways that language plays a role in those situations, and how complex social processes play a role in how these occasions and uses of language in those instances are perceived. In addition to our introduction, it includes nine previously unpublished research papers based on fieldwork in Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe, and three insightful commentaries from experienced researchers that help tie the different papers together. Before publication, many of the contributing authors had the opportunity to discuss work in progress at workshops in Sheffield, England and Cape Town, South Africa. These meetings led to thought-provoking discussions that led us to reflect further on our positionality as scholars. This process was pivotal to the development of the book.

Divided into three thematic sections, the book explores the contestation of spaces and the notion of borders, examines the ways that heritage and authenticity are linked or challenged, and interrogates the intersections between mobility and hierarchies as well as the ways that language can be linked to issues of belonging. We believe that future research will benefit from connecting scholarship in sociolinguistics more closely to scholarship in migration studies and globalization studies. This book is a step along this pathway.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Migration Control edited by Markus Rheindorf and Ruth Wodak.