Decolonising Multilingualism Struggles to Decreate Author: Alison Phipps

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25 Jun 2019
Writing Without Borders
Multilingual Matters
198 x 129


What if my own multilingualism is simply that of one who is fluent in way too many colonial languages?

If we are going to do this, if we are going to decolonise multilingualism, letís do it as an attempt at a way of doing it.

If we are going to do this, letís cite with an eye to decolonising.

If we are going to do this then letís improvise and devise. This is how we might learn the arts of decolonising.

If we are going to do this then we need different companions.

If we are going to do this we will need artists and poetic activists.

If we are going to do this, letís do it in a way which is as local as it is global; which affirms the granulations of the way peoples name their worlds.

Finally, if we are going to do this, letís do it multilingually.


Freire says the role of the colonised is to decolonise the coloniser – Alison Phipps shares her personal journey of such experiences that not only decolonise her but also reveal the hurts and pains of the colonised communities and the gentle wisdom of the lands that offer unconditional healing. These could be stories about courage and vulnerability, but for me I see them as doing what needs to be done: to whakatika (rectify wrongs), with aroha (unconditional love), and discover truth is held in what truly matters – whakapono (faith).

- Piki Diamond, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

This is a very timely contribution by Alison Phipps. We live in unprecedented times of divisions. Walls and barriers are raised to keep people and nations apart. People who have so much in common including shared languages. In this book, Alison reminds us of the connecting power of languages and multilingualism. She talks about the languages and traditions left behind by those forced to flee their homes and the rich heritage of languages they can bring to their adopted homes.

- Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, UK

Decolonising Multilingualism is a beautifully written, deeply personal and intimate account of what it means to decentre and give up power. None of us can step outside our histories, our skin colour, the structural inequalities that position us in ways that are both privileged and uncomfortable. But by engaging with, and reflecting upon, how these contexts and power relations influence our work with others, this little book is both liberating and challenges us to do better.

- Heaven Crawley, Coventry University, UK

A powerful call to decolonise knowledge and resist structures of violence through critical, poetic activism, by unlearning, dialoguing, and embodying the pain and potentialities of de-creation across and between languages, times and spaces.

- Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, University College London, UK

Author Biography:

Alison Phipps is UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, and Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow, UK. She writes and publishes widely in both academic publications and the media, and is a respected activist and campaigner for humane treatment for those seeking refuge.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Text

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