one of the pervasive themes of the FEL conference was the institutional ecology of language preservation and revitalization programs. from concerns that the work of dividing out the money allocated to language programs took more time and attention than actual work in the field or classroom to the constant pressure to produce documentation of language revitalization programs that fit the language of program assessment, participants in the conference had always to take some stance in relationship to endangered language bureaucracy. at times this stance was an embrace of government and NGO categories and procedures, but more often the stance expressed a disjuncture between what might actually constitute language vitality and the standard measures for producing knowledge about it. because language activists, educators, and scholars working on endangered langauges need to make their practices transparent to bureaucratic agencies if only to secure funding, one’s stance in relationship to bureaucracy is fraught. hence the sneaking feeling that the government is actually administering assimilation through other means. after all, the categories and forms of assessment derive from governmental rationality and not from the community. and the community must always strive to measure up
strathern and others have talked about audit culture as a ubiquitous phenomenon. techniques for measuring and assessing, that is auditing, efficiency and results have spread from their original loci in accounting rooms, factories, and corner offices to cover the broadest set of social domains, including but not limited to public health, education, culture, and language. the spread of assessment and accountability (in both senses!) has meant the creeping dominance of quantitative measures and methods, but also and perhaps less remarked upon, a kind of “culture power” in which the role of the state in relationship to language and cultural planning has shifted. although the work of strathern is not quite so ambitious, we might be able to think of the emergence of culture power as a momentous a shift as that to governmentality and bio-power as described in the work of foucault. at least that is how i’d like us to think about comprehensive community development and public multilingualism on taiwan.
the effect of this kind of culture power in the realm of language revitalization movements has been two fold: first, indigenous communities and individual indigenous people are often blamed for language loss. on taiwan, for example, many people consider indigenous women and men less worthy of the meagre recognition offered by the government if they cannot speak indigenous languages fluently. but never fear: the testing regime will sort out those worthy of the extra points on their civil service or college entrance exams. and on the whole, this sort of measure encourages a kind of knowledge of indigenous languages that remains within prescribed boundaries. second, language revival programs must create curricula and assessments that are transparent and that fit categories prescribed by the granting agencies, whether these are governmental or non-governmental. many sorts of programs that might not fit these categories or that are more difficult to measure quantitatively appear lacking in accountability from the vantage of the audit regime. yet, we might wonder whether these programs are equally if not more valuable. and we might also fear that audit culture imposes a sort of language ideology which, while not as actively destructive as national monolingualism, is equally pernicious.
at the very least, we might wonder whether the constant work of grant writing and assessing keeps us from actually speaking and teaching the language