17.664 inguistic and cultural provincialism

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sun Feb 22 2004 - 05:13:35 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 664.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

         Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 10:05:09 +0000
         From: "Domenico Fiormonte" <d.fiormonte@mclink.it>
         Subject: Re: 17.624 linguistic and cultural provincialism - the
booster shot

> We should be conscious that the problem Tito Orlandi raises has
> serious consequences for the reviewing of proposals to our
> conferences, as well. Even if we cannot overcome the plague of
> monolingualism in just a few days, we need to do something very
> urgently about people in our field be- coming more aware of these
> cultural and scholarly differences. At the sa- me time, people who
> work in our field but whose native language is not the present lingua
> franca need to get more involved in our scholarly organisations.
> Elisabeth Burr

I couldn't agree more.
I think we have been raising the problem at regular intervals, namely every
two years, see Vol. 15, No. 560 and Vol. 13, No. 45. (perhaps we are facing
here a clinic phenomenon quite common in allergic [multilingual?] bodies: I
think in English they call it "booster shot" ?).

I discussed the issue of the representation of non-Anglo-American languages
and cultures within ACH/ALLC organisations in a paper translated in English
(at my own expenses). This paper was originally published in the collection
in memoriam of Giuseppe Gigliozzi (see Vol. 15, No. 473).
I circulated the paper ("The international debate on humanities computing:
education, technology and the primacy of languages") among foreign friends
and colleagues for comments, but except for two or three benevolent souls
genuinely interested in the issue of multilingualism and multiculturalism,
the paper received a cold welcome (or no response at all, which, translated
in my very narrow mediterrenean cultural code, is even worse).
Was the paper that bad? I don't think so.
(For a confutation see:

Anyways, I decided to give up the idea of submitting it either to CHUM and
LLC. And probably, instead of keep complaining, when the right moment will
come, I will just forget to renewal my membership.

Not because I think these are bad or useless organizations, but because
they represent -- legitimally -- a specific geographic, linguistic,
cultural, and -- why not -- *rhetorical* context. I am happy to see that
especially the ALLC is now opening its doors to the outer world. But
honestly I don't see why the ALLC should be interested in giving up its
Anglo-Saxon majority: they have worked hard for years and there is no
reason why the organization should revolutionize its core structure, as
well as abandon its traditional scientific objectives -- for example the
concentration on TEI-XML enterprises and projects, which are clearly
identified as the main source of external scientific legitimation and
financial investements.

After all, as I keep saying since the first CLiP conference, I believe the
non-English speaking HC(S) community is strong enough to build an
independent Association. In my opinion, it would be much more fruitful for
all to engage in negotiations and discussions between peer associations
instead of trying to change an existent and solid structure from the
inside. (My political preference has always gone to the Maoistic doctrine
of the "hundred flowers" as opposed to the Gramscian "cultural hegemony"...

But as for this and Orlandi's complaints, I think we can look at the
problem also from a different side.

There are -- at least -- two types of provincialisms: the "in search of
legitimation" type, and the "ignoramus" type.
In the last ten years, having lived, studied and worked in four different
coutries, I had the privilege to observe, and unfortunately be affected by
both types of virus.

Well, guess what?
Time is passed, and I realised that this a specular battle, fought with the
weapons of frustration on one side, and guilty feelings on the other side.
Of course I still believe in the noble and useful practice of
inter-linguistic and inter-cultural dialogue, but I don't think that we,
the "culturally discriminated", should bother at all.
Let's just liberate ourselves from the chains of the hegelian Master-
Bondsman relationship.

Tito: our work is relevant or not regardless if our Anglo-American
colleagues and friends read it. There are other circuits of "legitimation",
and more can be built. The most important thing is to keep the good work.
The rest -- attention, recognition, genuine cultural exchange, etc. -- will
follow, soor or later.

Generally speaking, it is also likely that in the next fifty years or so
the linguistic, financial and cultural dominance of the English speaking
world will be seen for what really is: [in Emmanuel Todd's words] "not the
solution, but the problem".

Domenico Fiormonte

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