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4S Conference: We must “decenter English as the de facto language of academia”

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In response to the political landscape shift of 2016, an academic conference is encouraging participants to take steps to disenfranchise the usage of English language in the classroom and throughout academia.

The Society for Social Studies of Science, a group of humanities professors from around the globe, held their annual meeting in Boston, MA this past weekend, which is known as 4S. While most academics attend conferences to learn, network, and engage in debate about scholarly topics, conference organizers made it known that their conference would feature a new theme this year: marginalizing those who speak English.

Listed on the event website, one of the main themes of the conference was “Pluralizing Language in the Age of Trump and Brexit.” According to organizers of the conference, 4S realizes that “xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise in many places.”

“While English has become a scientific lingua franca that has been favoured in communications and networking across the globe, it is the official language of just a handful of countries,” the program reads. “Most prominently, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.”

In response to this perceived phenomenon, event organizers took the bizarre steps of requesting that individuals submit their presentations in a language other than English. The program goes as far as to say “even monolingual English speaker(s) may have parts or all of their presentation written or audio-recorded in another language by another speaker.”

The conference hired 11 translators to translate the presentations back to English for participants who only speak English.

In addition to inconveniencing individuals who have spent their entire academic career utilizing a single language to be more efficient, the 4S event organizers were also sure to include a number of liberal-themed sessions to ensure professors received a heavy dose of anti-Trump progressivism to bring back to their classrooms. The event included sessions such as “Reproductive Justice and Injustice,” “Climate Data Protection Under Trump: Strategies and Tactics,” andMind the Gap: Politics, Policy, and the Stylized Facts of Gender Inequality.”


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