Language oppression, language revitalization, linguistic justice, world-system, anthropology

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Research Article


The world’s languages are in crisis: intergenerational transmission of around half the world’s languages is collapsing. I argue that to understand and intervene in this situation, we need to radically reimagine what it means to call it a crisis. We need to think about this crisis not simply as an acute emergency (which it is), but also in Antonio Gramsci's sense of a period in which ‘the old is dying but the new cannot be born’. In this sense, our present moment of crisis is one in which language oppression and language revitalization co-exist in dynamic tension. To analyze this Gramscian crisis of linguistic justice at a world scale, I argue that we need to conceive of a world system constituted by the articulation of nationalism, colonialism, racism, and capitalism. My description of this system and how it produces language oppression aims to support scholars and activists to seize our current moment of crisis and make positive interventions in the global system towards a future of greater linguistic justice.




February 2, 2022


May 5, 2022