Linguistics Colloquium: Petros Karatsareas

27/10/2020 - 14:00 - 15:30

Petros Karatsareas, University of Westminster

Title: Ethnocultural revitalisation, linguistic repertoires and diasporic tensions: negotiating ethnolinguistic heterogeneity in Greek complementary schools in the UK post 2010

Abstract: Until about 2010, the experiences of people who migrated to the UK from Greece and Cyprus tended to be very different. There were stark class inequalities between the two groups, who started their diasporic trajectories equipped with differing amounts of economic and social capital, and driven by disparate motivations. In the UK, they organised their diasporic lives separately, and radically different opportunities and resources—both material and immaterial—were available to them as they sought to improve the living conditions and prospects of themselves and their families (Constantinou 1990; Pratsinakis et al. 2020). However, their diasporic paths did cross in two major pillars of diasporic life, the church and complementary schools, which serve to protect two key elements that keep the two groups together under the uniting ideological embrace of Hellenism: Greek Orthodoxy and the Greek language (Roussou 2003). It has historically been in the context of these symbolic institutional spaces that the sharp sociohistorical differences between the two groups became apparent, creating cleavages and rifts as well as initiatives that attempted to bridge them (Mettis 1998).

In this talk, I draw on teacher interview data to offer some preliminary insights into how the sociolinguistic makeup of Greek complementary schools in the UK has been and is being diversified by the arrival of Greek pupils, parents and qualified teachers after 2010 as a result of the Greek government-debt crisis. The arrival of post-2010 migrants, a cohort largely composed of older, well-educated people who spoke ‘correct’ Greek and decided to migrate with the prospects of long settlement (Pratsinakis 2019), stoked historical tensions and raised issues around legitimacy, ownership and management of complementary schools as community institutions fostering the intergenerational transmission of Greek (Loizidou Papaphotis 1984). It reaffirmed deep-rooted notions of linguistic hierarchisation of standardised and non-standardised varieties of Greek and helped to perpetuate the stigmatisation of the multilingual and multidialectal repertoires of people with a Greek Cypriot background, especially people who had been born in the UK and spoke diasporic varieties of Cypriot Greek (Karatsareas 2018, 2019, 2020).

Drawing on recent developments in the field of community language education (Blackledge & Creese 2010; Li 2006; Lytra & Martin 2010; Simon 2018) within a post-multilingualist framework (Li 2018), I show that complementary schools were not prepared to face the challenges that arose as Greek newcomers began to take issue with the linguistic, cultural and pedagogical realities they encountered. The ensuing friction led not only to dropouts, which weaken the overall position of the schools as community pillars (Li & Zhu 2013) and endanger their future, but also to the emergence of new Greek language education initiatives led by post-2010 migrants, ultimately putting a strain on the ties that have historically brought the Greek and Greek Cypriot communities together in the context of the UK diaspora.


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