The speaking citizen: language requirements and linguistic neoliberal colonialisms

This article concerns contemporary common-sense politics around language, integration, and citizenship that pervade Western European countries, where language is at the basis of a new model of citizenship – jus linguarum. I situate jus linguarum as the product of two seemingly different logics: the logics of neoliberalism and the logics (and legacies) of colonialism. I argue that jus linguarum obscures the fact that ‘national language’ is a historically constructed category with roots in imperialism, and allows for the disappearance of other categories, such as whiteness and middle-classness. The chapter shows how a form of ‘provincialised national languages’ arise from the tensions between the inevitability of multilingualism in today’s global world, on the one hand, and the insistence of one-nation-one-language, on the other. The analysis of jus linguarum developed in this paper forces a new understanding of citizenship where regimes of seeing and regimes of hearing combine in definitions of citizenship and citizens, through intersecting inequalities of language, race, and class.

Anne-Marie Fortier, The speaking citizen: language requirements and linguistic neoliberal colonialisms, Citizenship Studies, 2022.