Innovation Research: |
Language - Gender - Sustainability
The role of language in development and social change is largely
underestimated. However, verbal communication is the central instrument
with which knowledge is transferred and innovation takes place.
According to the different levels of interaction, the relevant
processes are complex and multi-layered: between development
organizations and experts, between experts and local people, and, more
importantly, within local groups themselves. It is they who talk,
argue, and act within their own institutions and organizations. Social,
cultural and linguistic differences and hierarchies give structure to
such processes, as well as the different types of organization of local
groups, or their degree of organizedness in that regard. Within such a
frame, specific strategies of control and appropriation of innovation
are at work.
The prevailing linguistic fragmentation of the so-called Third World is
usually perceived as a hindrance for development. We turn the tables:
innovation takes primarily place on a local level and in local languages, not
in the dominant official languages, which are usually mastered only by a
minority of the community concerned. Consequently, local languages must be
considered as indispensable media for development processes.
The interdisciplinary research project investigates into these
complex relationships of knowledge, innovation and language in 4
subprojects, viz. case studies in Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Uganda, and
in Namibia. The aim is to establish indicators of linguistic
sustainability which is meant to influence the practice of
grassroots-oriented development cooperation.