The importance of traditional knowledge, cultural awareness and safety is crucial in our vision to build capacity in a European society which is growing older and more multicultural. Linguistic and cultural diversity plays a vital role in Europe and it has a strong potential to bridge social asymmetries, based on the fact that minority and indigenous languages are gateways through which the new speakers from diverse cultural background can access rich and creative cognitive resources on which they can capitalize as assets for welfare and development. Multicultural and multilingual Europe will thus heavily depend on strategies that successfully respond to linguistic mobility and social integration that respects cultural diversity as well as development agendas for ethnic minorities, migrant communities and diasporas, which build social resiliency through translocality. The innovation potential of the ENGHUM project will enable the Twinning partners to address these challenges and propose sound and sustainable solutions for the future, based on collaboration of academic institutions, local communities, non-academic bodies and other social as well as economic agents, such as local manufacturing and trade companies, tourist agencies, and corporations employing multilingual/multicultural teams.
The novelty of the proposed concept and approach lies in the assertion that languages and cultures can be a non-political and non-religious common denominator for social and economic transformations with the participation of ethnic/linguistic minorities. The spectrum of beneficiaries of this approach is very broad as it builds on constructing bridges between academy and society and on widening social participation on local, national and European level. The research on minority languages and cultures, and the applicability of its results will be crucial for multicultural development of Europe. Research institutions, such as UNIWARSAW and its partners, should play an active role in this process. The ENGHUM project will prove that this area of research excellence and capacity can directly translate into the construction of bridges between different social groups: researchers, activists, educational workers, local communities, and national/ethnic/linguistic minority groups.
An essential dimension of the project, defined as “engaged humanities”, embraces many forms of participatory action research (PAR) – closely related to a more recent notion of community-based participatory research (CBPR) – based on direct participation of language communities/ethnic groups as stakeholders and partners in specific research projects. This is a partnership-based approach in which community members, local researchers/teachers/activists and organizations participate and benefit in all steps and aspects of the research process, sharing their values, networks, tools and viewpoints, making it possible to combine external and internal perspectives. By overcoming the lack of broader impact and elitism of conventional teaching and research, this approach should lead to the democratization of generated knowledge in order to cause social change.
Therefore, the cornerstone of the proposed strategy is strong capacity-building in participatory action research, integrated transdisciplinary studies on language and culture, as well as selected aspects of applied linguistics related to language policy, multilingualism and teaching of minority languages. The project also makes it possible to bridge several significant gaps in current humanities research, including its relatively limited impact on broader society, a lack of connection between research and its practical applications, restricted access to generated knowledge and a strong division, albeit artificial, between linguistic and cultural studies. Specific objectives of the ENGHUM project, conforming to the general goal of attaining scientific excellence in the area of participatory action research in linguistic-cultural heritage, include capacity-building in the following areas:
The proposed framework involves extensive research and innovation capacity building of UNIWARSAW, achieved through an integrated and well-planned program of staff exchange, training sessions, summer schools, fields schools and workshops. The theoretical and methodological assumptions behind the proposed framework are based on an approach to the status of minority and indigenous languages, which involves conducting participatory research and positively influencing language policy as well as the development of practical and theoretical strategies for revitalization. This includes teaching curricula for universities and language communities, as well as fostering collaboration between European scholars and members of ethnic minority/local communities. These activities are thus meant to enable collaboration across disciplinary, regional and ideological divisions in Europe and beyond.
The community members will be positioned as the driving force behind all research activities they choose to pursue in partnership with our academic institutions and fully recognized as knowledge holders and knowledge creators. This will be achieved by developing innovative methodologies to work with groups who are subjected to discrimination and fighting against discriminatory and/or (post-)colonial structures and behaviours, including: (1) creating and sharing community driven and decolonizing research paradigms that would directly benefit language communities at every stage of a research project (2) helping to create bases for collective action, driven by language communities and implemented in collaboration with mainstream research institutions.
Essential for the concept and for achieving a major social impact is the inclusion of local language minority communities in Twinning activities: Wilamowice in Poland, Isle of Man (a self-governing British Crown dependency located in the Irish Sea) and Nahuatl-speaking communities in Mexico (to learn more about Wymysorys and Nahuatl languages visit www.revitalization.al.uw.edu.pl).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 692199.