Decoding Multilingual Language Practices within a Palestinian NGO

By Olivia Martina Dalla Torre
Submitted to Session Individual Submission, 2016 Annual Meeting
The Palestinian occupied territories are characterised by a visible and audible large number of languages coming from all around the world. English certainly plays a dominant role in the communicational practices, but this linguistic variety confirms the huge presence of Internationals on the ground and the multilingual side of the region. Starting from this first general consideration, this presentation focuses in a particular aspect of the Palestinian multilingual context, i.e. the use of different languages to communicate about the political situation (occupation, settlements, checkpoints…), on the international level. To do this, I will focus on ethnographic fieldwork on a Palestinian socio-cultural NGO located in a refugee camp. Firstly, I will explain the goals of the NGO and its political claims, all built around the Israeli occupation issue. Then, I will put forward the linguistics strategies and the political discourses used by the NGO Palestinian members and International supporters to reach more and more people from outside Palestine. The multilingual claims will be analysed by using the theoretical tools of the critical sociolinguistics which considers that the communicational practices need to be understood within the political and historical contexts of production (Bourdieu 1982; Geertz 1999; Heller 2002; Olivesi 2009). I will ask then the following questions: how, under what conditions, with what consequences and limits the multilingual communication may be a tool to struggle? Whom the communication is addressed to? I will attempt to answer these questions pointing out the link and the tensions between the multilingual practices and the transnational aspect of the Palestinian cause and the attracting ideological role of this latter. Hence, I will argue that the use of multilingual communication constitute not only a potential bridge between Palestine and outside (Appadurai 1996) but also a profitable social capital which contributes, under some socio-political conditions, to give a transnational aspect to political claims and to facilitate the internationalization of political causes. I will conclude affirming that multilingualism may be a useful analytical tool able to nourish the political reflections already in progress in the Middle East Studies.