Summer School: Communication and Environmental Justice: Sociocultural Linguistic Approaches, University of Oslo, Norway (12-16 September 2022)

Selma Shiyoka, PhD

From 12 September to 16 September 2022, I attended a MultiLing Summer School at the University of Oslo, Norway. The theme for the summer school was “Communication and Environmental Justice: Sociocultural Linguistic Approaches” and its main objective was to consider how applied linguists can contribute to social justice concerns in a time of growing environmental challenges and climate change. Over the course of an idea-packed week, participants and invited lecturers shared and discussed their research to examine the connections between language, environment and social justice. My presentation was based on the introductory chapter of my doctoral dissertation, “Precarity and Resilience: An Ecofeminist Reading of the African Child in Fiction by Contemporary Women Writers”.

In preparation for the summer school, the invited lecturers sent us an extensive reading list and required our participation in different activities. For the first session, we were asked to bring and discuss an image, a piece of music, an object, anything that symbolizes and reflects our personal relationship to politics and its interrelationship with language/semiotics. The aim of this activity was to show how scholars can become political activists and how language can be used to communicate anger, resilience and hope. Throughout the week, lecturers presented their research in relation to the reading list. One of the main themes in these presentations was the abuse of animals by human animals. For instance, dairy cows are exploited and separated from their calf after birth; the milk produced is strictly for human consumption whilst the calf is formula fed. We visited a dairy farm where I saw how the cows live in a very small environment without much room for movement and are reared to serve humans. We were tasked to observe how cows interact among themselves and how they communicate with / respond to humans. During the summer school, I learnt that language plays a critical role in the way that anger and hope are understood in times of crisis, which I found essential as a scholar-activist. Although anger is perceived to be destructive, it can be used as a tool against oppressive systems and other injustices facing nature, human animals and nonhuman animals today. Hope is an affective agency which fuels forms of refusal and carries the potential to change the status quo.

I would like to thank Professor Christine Anthonissen in the Department of General Linguistics and Prof Tina Steiner in the Department of English at Stellenbosch University for supporting my application to attend the summer school. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to the MultiLing team and the INTPART project facilitators for sponsoring my travel from Namibia and stay in Oslo, enabling me to participate in this invaluable learning experience. I also want to thank my supervisor, Dr Jeanne Ellis, for her encouragement, support and guidance.