ongoing work on public multilingualism

one of my ongoing interests with the diverse tracesproject has been the prevalence of public multilingualism on the island since the beginning of the 2000s. at first relatively restricted to the tapei MTR, now most public spaces in taiwan provide announcements in taiwanese mandarin, hoklo, hakka, and english. on the east coast taiwan railways trains, these announcements are joined by announcements in amis, an indigenous language listed on the unesco atlas of the world’s endangered languages. because education in mandarin is nearly universal in taiwan, multilingualism serves no purpose for navigating the train or MTR systems; rather, it communicates to listeners that these public amenities have adopted a stance of accommodation toward linguistic diversity. in other words, if public spaces previously hailed listeners as citizens of the republic of china, the MTR indexes the listener’s identity, defined by membership in a linguacultural community with equal rights to representation. because these announcements serve both a pedagogical and ideological function that continues under the past three years of the “blue,” or china leaning, administration, we might see these elements of a contemporary taiwanese soundscape as sounding a real shift in governmentality

in this work, i am interested in exploring the way this shift in governmentality sounds (out / in) public spaces that are intimately connected to everyday life. how is the morning commute or longer travel–whether to home villages or as a tourist–interwoven with possible ways of being taiwanese articulated in public announcements and our engagement with them? to engage in this exploration, i employ loops and other devices to foreground the pressing quality of public multilingualism. sources for the work include field recordings from the taipei MTR, kaohsiung MTR, and taiwan railways stations and trains in taipei and on the east coast

public multilingualism: a work in progress

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