My new essay has been published by The Journal of Studies in International Education. This is a long article (30 pages) that discusses issues around language, education, etc. In light of our discussions yesterday about language and power, i thought this may be of interest. As always, there are references to our situation in Azerbaijan and to Dr Baraheni's work (How can anyone talk about language without mentioning Dr Baraheni, eh!).

Now JSID is a prestigious academic journal and access to the full article maybe restricted, unless you use your university library resources, etc. I will bring some hard copies to 21 Azer event in Toronto (December 14, I believe).

Yaver has selected some relevant sections and has been doing some PR work on the article. Please see below.

Best regards,


The Return of the Subaltern: International Education and Politics of Voice

Alireza Asgharzadeh 

Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 12, No. 4, 334-363 (2008)

 Key Words: diversity • educational theory • globalization • human rights • international education • language • multiculturalism • multilingualism • social theory • sociology of education • subalternity • critical pedagogy
How can one indeed describe the terror of being rendered speechless, the horror of tonguelessness?  The Azeri writer, Reza Baraheni, has come closest to describing such a terror. "Bring the saw up here." Thus starts Baraheni's famous novel  Les saisons en enfer du jeune Ayyaz [The Infernal Times of Mr. Ayaz] (2000).  The saw with white and sharp teeth is brought up to dismember a man, a captive man, tied up to a rack, with a spike passing through his body… His crime? Standing at the crossroads and speaking truth to power, praising freedom, "shouting something like 'Annal haq!'" (1999, p. 255). And now his arms and feet are being sawed and severed in the most graphic, excruciating manner. But the man is still alive, for his tongue is intact and this makes him defiant as ever. As long as he can talk, as long as he has his means of expression, he can be defiant and dangerous. Since he can still talk, he therefore is a threat, no matter how incapacitated, how mutilated, wounded and broken he is. His spirit is still alive because his tongue is intact:

"We requested a long and sharp pair of scissors, and when they brought them up we requested…two ladders…we ascended them to tear out the roots of his speech… …and then, working together, we cut out his tongue… we forced him not to think, and if he should think not to speak, because he no longer had a tongue… …the slippery, blood-covered tongue, blood fresh and brightly colored, was held in Mahmoud's hand… Words ceased to exist, and he forgot letters and sounds and words and speech…"  (Baraheni, 1999, pp. 258-59).

In this graphic image of tongue-cutting there is an echo of Baraheni's own self-amputation. For his mother tongue too was cut out during the rule of Pahlavis (1925-1978) in Iran where Baraheni was forced to write in 'the language of the nation.' For as long as he has been a writer, Baraheni has been writing in the imposed tongue of 'the nation.' For this seventy-year old Azeri writer, writing in the language of the oppressor has been an excruciating act of self-mutilation, a painfully slow performance of hara-kiri, the traditional Japanese form of suicide, that has been uninterruptedly going on for over four decades. What can one do in such an oppressive condition? Is there any hope other than a critical one? At least for those with critical gaze, with mutilated bodies and amputated tongues, maintaining a critical hope seems to be the only healthy option.  In the words of Paulo Freire, "we need critical hope the way a fish needs unpolluted water" (1992, p. 8).

...While Spanglish is a habitus of resistance to the dominance of standard English, there are other hybrid and mutilated languages that are created as a result of linguistic racism.  "Fazeri," for instance, represents the case of a hybrid form of speech created from Azeri and Farsi as a consequence of politics of linguicide exercised by successive Iranian governments  in southern Azerbaijan.  Azeri is the natural tongue of millions of Azerbaijanis living in Iran. Since 1925 the use of this particular language (along with Kurdish, Arabic, Baluchi, Turkmeni, etc) has been banned in Iran. Farsi is the government's official language imposed on the majority non-Persian population. "Fazeri" is the illegitimate child of this colonial relationship, consummated by an unholy marriage between Farsi and Azeri. Unlike "Spanglish," Fazeri does not invoke a spirit of resistance; what it invokes is the deplorable sight of a language being devoured by an imposed 'official' tongue (see also Asgharzadeh, 2003; Dei and Asgharzadeh, 2003).

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