One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cultural ‘Capital’ and Language of Empires

How it is that, modernization is almost synonymous with westernization and English has emerged as the representative language of globalization? What about rise of Persian with persianization, rise of Islam with Arabization?  rise of Turks with Turkization? What about Spanish speaking people in Latin America and French speaking class in North Africa? In fact, transnational languages are footprints of the past empires. Middle East and Central Asia are considered as graveyard of empires and although there are no more empires but the lingual divides and the continuing competition of languages over populations are still reminding us of the legacies of those majestic empires.  Pakistan is an interesting case study is this regard.

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu and Urdu speaking community is called Muhajir (Immigrants) because they emigrated from North India during partition of India-Pakistan. In fact, Urdu is a legacy of Mughal Empire and is very recent to be added to the family of languages and people of North India adapted it (created it during Mughal Empire). Likewise, English is the official language of Pakistan and it is the legacy of English Empire. Just as English Empire had replaced Mughal Empire, similarly, the English language had first replaced Persian as an official language and then slowly distorting/enriching Urdu by replacing Persian and Arabic words and expressions in it.

I think, the best explanation can be Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of “Cultural Capital”. He has borrowed the concept from Marx Capital and hence represents any cultural aspect (education, intellect, style of speech, dress, and even physical appearance, et cetera) that helps social mobility. Language stands at the core of cultural capital and it really explains why, with the rise of each empire, the language of empire was adapted by other people. It really explains why founders of Pakistan adapted Urdu as a national language and English as official language. Urdu was the heritage of Muslim (Mughal) empire (glorious past) but English was the coinage of current empire. 

It is interesting to note that, despite of very obvious influence of cultural capital on every segments of modern societies, Marxist movements  of last century and even recent 99% movement were largely based on economic class divide. And that is because cultural capital are the products of economic and social capitals. By increasing digitalization of the social institutions, the influence of the cultural capital are deepening. Seeing the people of previous generation, even those who weren't able to read and write properly are struggling to catch up with basic technologies are an indication of a social urgency and the role that cultural capital  is playing in it. 

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