Multilingualism and social exclusion

Authored by: Ingrid Piller

The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415496476
eBook ISBN: 9780203154427
Adobe ISBN: 9781136578144


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It is the aim of this chapter to provide an overviewof research into theways in which social exclusion and multilingualism articulate. ‘Social exclusion’ and its inverse, ‘social inclusion’, are relatively new terms, which first started to be used in Europe in the 1990s in reference to those excluded from the Social Contract, particularly through lack of paid work. The term has since gained prominence due to its use in the European Union's Lisbon Strategy of 2000, which aims ‘to strengthen employment, economic reform and social cohesion as part of a knowledge-based economy’ (European Parliament 2000). Social exclusion is sometimes used to refer narrowly to the absence of economic well-being, particularly unemployment and underemployment, and sometimes it is used more broadly to include the absence of civil and social rights, particularly to health care and education (Birchardt et al. 2002). The usefulness of the term ‘social exclusion’ over older terms such as ‘poverty’ or ‘deprivation’ (Welshman 2007) or over its North American equivalents ‘marginalization’ or ‘underclass’ (Hills et al. 2002), lies precisely in this broad conceptualization and in the recognition that identities are a major source of exclusion from material well-being. Key aspects of identity that are widely recognized as being bound up with access to material resources include gender, ethnicity/race, class and citizenship status and the myriad ways in which these intersect (see e.g. Browne and Misra 2005; Burman 2003; Valentine 2007; Westwood 2005; Yuval-Davis 2007). Although the intersection between social exclusion and these ascribed identities is well researched — if not necessarily well understood — there is a relative lack of attention to the ways in which linguistic identities, linguistic proficiencies and language ideologies mediate social inclusion.

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