Multilingualism, Multiculturalism, and Migration: A Critical Assessment

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This essay-review assesses what has been dubbed a hybrid or mobile turn in work on immigration, literature, and language. Analogous to a broader mobility turn in studies of migration, scholars in literature and linguistics emphasize the fluidity, hybridity, and mobility of migrants' (multi-)lingual practices and literatures, aiming to challenge sedimented ideas about linguistic assimilation or nationalism and monolingualism. While finding merit in these works, this essay argues that celebrations of migrant multilingualism and linguistic hybridity also can work in tandem with the racialization, economic exploitation, and exclusion of migrants. This is because certain forms of migrant multilingualism become forms of human capital under neoliberalism, while other forms of linguistic diversity or fluidity are, at best, made illegible or, at worst, used to racialize otherwise ideal neoliberal migrant subjects. Tracing how arguments for linguistic fluidity and hybridity are folded into complex and stratified forms of neoliberal subjectivity, multiculturalism, and economic value, the essay illustrates the necessity of situating studies of immigrant language practices and language policy within broader political, economic and world-historical contexts such as global racial capitalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-529
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Literary History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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