Guilherme Moreira Fians MA, Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester
Hoping for the language of Hope: Activism, ways of engagement and conceptions of time among Esperanto speakers
Guilherme Moreira Fians is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar, the title and abstract of this lecture are now available.
The prospective outcomes of social movements are one of the topics often approached by social scientists (Giugni, McAdam and Tilly 1999). As the perceptions of the success/failure dimension by its supporters tend to diverge from the perceptions of the rest of the society, the Esperanto movement is a paradigmatic case to study the significance of such consequences. In this sense, my paper aims at debating temporality and perceptions of time among Esperanto supporters through a socio-anthropological perspective. Many Esperantists regard Esperanto as the language of the future, as the tool that will help to gather people together through a neutral, fair, and equitable communication. At the same time, people who do not speak this language often regard it as a failed project; as something that may have had importance in the past, but that is not spoken anymore, and are usually surprised when they come across someone who speaks it. Between these conceptions of Esperanto as something from the past and as something for the future, what is really happening among Esperantists nowadays, in the present?
Through an ethnographical approach, I critically present the everyday practice of Esperantists as such, by relating, comparing and mapping perspectives on Esperanto as a language, movement and speech community. Through a fieldwork conducted mostly among Esperantists and Esperanto associations in France and in the Netherlands, and by collecting data from archive research, interviews and participant observation, I discuss conceptions of Esperanto as failure or success, as something oriented to the past, to the present and/or to the future, and visions on nostalgia and hope. I analyse it regarding, for instance, the weakening of many Esperanto associations and the simultaneous strengthening of the Esperanto movement online, through groups on social networks and smartphone apps and the emergence of free online Esperanto courses, and on how people face it as a change of the Esperanto community, as the end of Esperanto, or as the advent of internet as a suitable tool for the use and the spread of the language. I also intend to relate these issues and to contribute to the growing bibliography in Sociology and in Anthropology on social movements and their relations with time, hopelessness, hopefulness (such as Ringel 2012, and Jansen 2016) and new technologies.
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