University of Hong Kong > School of Humanities

English and the transnational Ismaili community: On ‘methodological nationalism’ and ‘transnationalism’
- Dr. Brook Bolander

Thu 06 Oct 2016, 3:00 - 4:30 pm
CPD-4.04, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus

English and the transnational Ismaili community: On ‘methodological nationalism’ and ‘transnationalism’

The notion of ‘transnationalism’ has gained currency in sociolinguistics, particularly in connection with an upsurge in research on language and globalisation. Yet it is under-defined and under-theorized, so that it is often not clear what or who is transnational, in what sense, and how behaving or thinking as a transnational (Vertovec 1999; Dahinden 2009) is pertinent to issues of language use and ideology. In this paper I draw on my work on the role of English for the transnational Ismaili community to explore what a transnational perspective might both highlight and hide. Using examples collected during fieldwork in communities of Ismaili living in Hunza, Nothern Pakistan and Khorog, Eastern Tajikistan, I address various meanings of transnational. In doing so, I tackle notions of ‘local’, ‘national’ and ‘transnational'; and I reflect upon the challenge of their simultaneity. At a more abstract level, this involves addressing the challenge of going beyond methodological nationalism without per se or a priori overemphasizing transnationalism.


Brook Bolander is an Assistant Professor in the School of English at the University of Hong Kong. Her major research interests include the sociolinguistics of globalisation, English as a transnational language, and the language use online. Her publications include a monograph on Language and power in blogs (John Benjamins, 2013), an article on “English and the transnational Ismaili Muslim community: Identity, the Aga Khan, and infrastructure” in Language in Society (2016), and a special issue (co-edited with Till Mostowlansky) on “Language and globalisation in South and Central Asian spaces” forthcoming with the International Journal of the Sociology of Language (2017).

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