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Accepted Paper:

What's the value of the mother-tongue? Reflections on the production of a 'moral economy' in international policy-making  
Catherine Scheer (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient)

Paper short abstract:

Relying on fieldwork in meetings and conferences that bring together actors from international institutions, universities and governments with the goal of influencing language policy in Southeast Asia, I will reflect upon Fassin’s approach to the production of ‘moral economies’.

Paper long abstract:

Over the past twenty years, language has become increasingly foregrounded in international discourse. Terms such as language endangerment, language revitalisation, and Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education have gained prominence. These specialized phrases come out of and rely on academic knowledge, mostly from the fields of linguistics and science in education and can be analysed as being part of a scientifico-political endeavour, framing the social in technical linguistic terms.

Since 2015 I joined meetings of a specialised working group at UNESCO Bangkok and international conferences in Myanmar and Thailand, observing the involvement of UN agents, NGO representatives, scholars, and government officials in the process of making policy recommendations in linguistically diverse Southeast Asia.

Although the specialised phrases discussed in these contexts are deeply marked by "a set of values, norms and emotions" (Fassin, 2012) about language, I propose that the reverse is also true: that scientific observations entangled in political agendas can influence the production of a 'moral economy' of the mother-tongue .

The analytical tool of 'moral economy' as defined by Didier Fassin can thus provide a complementary level of understanding to the scientifico-political one, and at the same time the study of international policy-making might affect Fassin's approach to the "production" of moral economies. By pursuing this reflection, I will attempt to critically examine what appears to be a specificity of Fassin's definition of 'moral economies' as compared to E.P. Thompson's and James Scott's.

Panel P058
Rethinking the concept of moral economy: anthropological perspectives
  Session 1