Tilburg University

Super-diversity: Uncovering the nexus between complexity-in-action and language

Funding: NWO Internationalization in the Humanities
Grant period: 2014-2017
Main applicant: Jan Blommaert (Babylon, Center for the Study of Superdiversity)

Super-diversity is increasingly recognized as the new phenomenology of what previously was identified as the ‘multiculturalism’ paradigm and then moved on to be the ‘diversity’ paradigm both of which were supported by a strong Fishmanian tradition that led to a sociolinguistics of distribution. Language, in its verbal, written and multimodal reifications appears to be an extremely sensitive tool here for catching the dynamics of super-diversity, i.e., for unravelling the complexities that characterize the verbal, written and multimodal actions that people come to grapple with in (urban) centres and (rural) peripheries in both online and offline environments where their daily lives interactions unfold. This project intends therefore to cover precisely that very ground, that is, to provide theoretical and methodological understanding and innovations in the field of sociolinguistics and, through that, to contribute significantly to the development of a mature social-scientific study of super-diversity through the re-appreciation of previously validated socio-linguistic concepts and through the re-appreciation of data that have been collected in several partners’ projects that touch upon daily language encounters in online and offline environments.

As globalization affects the nature and structure of contemporary societies in fundamental ways, current scientific models and key concepts need to be critically questioned as to their adequacy to address such changes.

The applicant, who is research leader of the Language and Globalization program at the Faculty of Humanities of Tilburg University, attempts to question the validity of theoretical and methodological instruments for studying language in relation to culture, society and identity and thus takes specific directions in this exercise through: a) a focus on interdisciplinary and collective research efforts, in an attempt to explore the limits of current disciplinary frameworks; b) a focus on a broad range of research topics and areas, covering issues that occur at the strictly local level as well as on the global level, c) the construction of a sound empirical basis for comparative work and theoretical generalization; It achieves a), b) and c) through: means of paradigmatic re-orientation of sociolinguistics towards super-diversity, complexity and mediation, with an immediate contact with partners in the field.

The mission of the team attached to this program is to provide groundbreaking, innovative and socially relevant work. In view of that, we feel that there is an urgent need to consolidate our domestic research base; to extend and strengthen the dialogue with internationally networked colleagues; to strengthen collaborative work both in teams and with non-academic 1 partners, to stimulate excellence in output; and to convert vanguard research into top-level teaching modules and outreach programs. The group does not seek to position itself only in the national research environment with regard to its core activities; it positions itself internationally. The reason is that the program is unique within The Netherlands in its composition and perspective. While several aspects of the program are being developed at other Dutch universities, the overall structure of the program is connected to an international network of researchers gathered in the InCoLaS (International Consortium on Language and Super-Diversity). This consortium gathers the strongest and most advanced research groups internationally around the new theme of superdiversity.

For recently held and upcoming InCoLaS meetings see Events

Full project proposal

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