Traversing super-, trans-, and inter-: Central and South Asia revisited

Brook Bolander, University of Zurich Till Mostowlansky, University of Bern

Thematic outline

This interdisciplinary workshop unites linguists, anthropologists, historians and geographers. Its main aim is to transcend the borders between Central and South Asian spaces, which are typically fixed in much contemporary scholarship, and to address the implications of our approach for English linguistics and studies of language use. Our workshop builds on previous research conducted within interdisciplinary research programs in particular, but also relevant research from linguistics, anthropology, geography and history.

We position this endeavour within the general context of globalisation. While globalisation cannot be considered a new phenomenon, contemporary processes of globalisation have attracted a lot of attention in scholarship. This has led to the development of a whole range of terms which are used to conceptualise (widespread and rapid) social change, and to highlight the fluidity and heterogeneity of globalisation, for example, "transnational" and "superdiversity". One of the aims of our workshop is to address the implications of transcending the borders between South and Central Asia for key concepts which surface in the literature on globalisation, including but not limited to "transnational" and "superdiversity".

While there is research which does not insist upon drawing borders between South and Central Asia, our workshop will tackle this theme from an interdisciplinary angle within a novel context: a conference devoted to English linguistics. In choosing to host our workshop within the framework of ISLE, we aim to explore both how English linguistics can profit from related disciplines with respect to processes and patterns of globalisation in South and Central Asian spaces, and how English linguistics can add to discussions being held on these topics within related disciplines.

With respect to the conference's theme, our workshop attempts to build bridges at various levels: Thematically,

1) between South and Central Asian spaces;
2) between language use and other socio-cultural practices in South and Central Asian spaces; and
3) between English and other languages in South and Central Asian spaces.

In terms of disciplinary outlook, we intend to build a bridge between linguistics, anthropology, geography and history. In this introductory paper, we will address these three bridges in turn, and thereby position the workshop papers.

List of speakers

Vasudha Bharadwaj (Department for the History of the Modern World, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich), Patriotism, power, and practicality: Regionalism, linguistic conflict, and English in 1960s India

Brook Bolander (Department of English, University of Zürich, Switzerland), English and the transnational Ismaili Muslim community in Northern Pakistan, Eastern Tajikistan and beyond

David Britain (University of Berne, Switzerland), Discussant

Hermann Kreutzmann (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), Language variegation across the Pamirs - perceptions and mobilities

Till Mostowlansky (University of Bern, Switzerland), Building bridges across the Oxus: The (re)connection of two regions and the language of development

Tariq Rahman (Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan), The modernization of names in Pakistan

Lena Zipp (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Code-switching in the media: Identity negotiations in a Gujarati diaspora radio programme


This workshop was made possible through financial support provided by:

  • the Swiss National Science Foundation’s “International Exploratory Workshops”
  • the VAUZ (Vereinigung akademischer Mittelbau der Universität Zürich)
  • the ZUNIV (Zürcher Universitätsverein)