Why aren’t we outraged by language oppression: A history by Gerald Roche

  • Date: 27 Sep 2022 | 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
  • Venue: YouTube Livestream
Linguistics Special Lecture Series 2022 No.1
presented in cooperation with The Katig Collective
Gerald Roche
Senior Research Fellow
La Trobe University
27 September 2022 | Tuesday | 10:00 AM Philippine Time (UTC+08:00)
The lecture will be livestreamed on
We live in an era of global language oppression, with at least half the languages of the world currently being forced into dormancy. This should outrage us, but judging by the lukewarm response of global civil society and governments everywhere, as well as reactions on social media, traditional media, and academia, it hardly outrages anyone. Worldwide language oppression is more often either ignored or treated as something regrettable but inevitable. Why? In this talk I will outline part of the untold history of this indifference, focusing on how state-sponsored suppression of languages was removed from the genocide convention. This story is important because the genocide convention aimed to not only define a specific crime, but also to attach it to a particular affect and mood intended to motivate human action. Genocide was to be a crime that “shocked the conscious of mankind” (sic), and this feeling of shock was intended to motivate action to prevent genocide. Removing language from genocide was thus part of a broader process that simultaneously protected state’s rights to engage in language oppression and generated passivity in the general public. I will trace this story through an analysis of the collated preparatory documents that summarize the debates around the genocide convention from 1946 – 1948.
Gerald Roche is a political anthropologist whose work focuses on colonialism, state violence, and language oppression. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University and is also one of three co-chairs of the Global Coalition for Language Rights. He co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Language Oppression and has recently published an article on The Necropolotics of Language Oppression in Annual Review of Anthropology.
Inst. Vincent Christopher A. Santiago