Linguistics Circle Talk

Language Ideologies as Urban Infrastructure: A Socio-Spatial Analysis of Identity, Belonging, and Multilingualism in Pune, Maharashtra

Dr. Jessica Sujata Chandras

Friday, September 17
3:30- 4:30
Greene 162

By examining the contemporary multiscriptual and multilingual landscape of the city of Pune, Maharashtra, this paper addresses the theme of “Circulation” for the International Conference on Maharashtra, by exploring the ways language ideologies circulate about Marathi, English, Urdu, and Hindi to illuminate a linguistic infrastructure of the city. I argue that language ideologies, as beliefs about languages and their speakers that motivate behavior, provide a way for Pune residents to organize socio-spatial knowledge of the city and navigate belonging (Schieffelin et al, 1998). Through qualitative ethnographic research from 2016 to 2018, this linguistic anthropological study extends a discussion of the power of both written and spoken language to socially construct understandings of identity and belonging (Jaffe & De Koning 2015, Lynch 1960). Data includes seven mental maps drawn by interlocutors to show their understanding of the city’s socio-spatial linguistic boundaries and images of signage in three distinct Pune neighborhoods to analyze contemporary urban Indian multilingual and multiscriptual space as a cultural category (Duranti & Goodwin 1992, Feld & Basso 1996). Findings indicate that the use and broadly circulating knowledge of different languages and scripts in the city coincide with many socio-political identifying features and social stratification through caste categories, socioeconomic statuses, and religious/ethnic backgrounds. Understanding a city’s infrastructure and spatial organization through language guides Pune residents’ experiences of the city and their roles within it.

Keywords: Language, Identity, Mapping, Multilingualism, India

Author Biography

Jessica Sujata Chandras is an anthropologist trained in ethnographic methods with a focus on linguistic and sociocultural anthropology. She joined the anthropology department at Wake Forest University in 2021 as a visiting assistant professor in anthropology. She researches intersections of language, identity, and education in India and her current research and manuscript, Mother Tongue Aspirations, extends this topic to focus on interactions of caste and language in education.

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Hispanic Linguistics Symposium 2021

Hispanic Linguistics Symposium 2021

October 7th-9th, 2021
Online via Zoom

Visit the HLS website for more details!



The Hispanic Linguistics Symposium 2021 has been sponsored by the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute with support made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this conference, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This event has also received generous support from the following Wake Forest University organizations:

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Office of the Provost
  • Department of Spanish and Italian
  • Linguistics Program
  • Latin American and Latino Studies Program




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