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Lunch Lecture - Brook Bolander: English, motility and Ismaili transnationalism

When Jan 29, 2015
from 01:15 PM to 02:00 PM
Where Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Kollegiengebäude III, HS 3042
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97398
Attendees öffentlich / open to all
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Program Lunch Lectures WS 2014/15

English, motility and Ismaili transnationalism

Brook Bolander
English Linguistics, Zürich University

The transnational Ismaili community is made up of local communities of Ismailis living in over 25 countries around the world. Despite diversity within and between these communities, the 10–15 million Ismailis worldwide share a common identity as Ismaili. Various structures and resources are used to construct and maintain the community.

These include an official language – English. In this paper, I aim to explore the role of English in connection with Ismaili transnationalism. Drawing on ethnographic data collected during fieldwork in Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan, and on data taken from digital spaces, I will focus on movement of local Ismailis away from Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan, and on movement of people and ideas to Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan. I will thereby argue for the importance of including non-mobile individuals in conceptualisations of Ismaili transnationalism. In doing so, I will apply Kaufman, Bergman and Joye’s (2004) concept of “motility”, which points to the interconnections between social and spatial mobility, and highlights the potential for mobility; and I will underline the role local settings play for transnational processes. In the course of the paper, I will also demonstrate that Ismaili transnationalism is not homogeneous. Instead, certain people, places and spaces emerge as more relevant to its construction and maintenance. This, too, becomes coupled with language, notably in this case access to English. Finally, I will end the paper by exploring the implications of these findings for conceptualisations of the concept of “transnational community.”