Language discrimination is often invisible to most people. I never really thought about it, until I read something about the language barrier in academic literature on international relations by Ole Weaver. He criticised this discipline because almost all theories, books and ideas on international relations that are considered relevant were (and still are) produced by white, American and European men.
After reading this, I felt a little uncomfortable and I had to read it again. I looked through my old textbooks and articles that I had to read for my other IR classes and it was incredible: how could I not have noticed the fact that they were all written by the same kind of person? How could I not have second-guessed the theories but always considered them to be ‘fact’? I thought I was a critical student, but this was apparently not the case.
International Relations should be a field where many different perspectives and ideas come together: it is about all the countries in the world and their daily business with each other. Yet, the United States and specific parts of Western Europe have a monopoly on what is written on how countries globally interact. “How” you might ask? Well, all the literature that is considered relevant and good have one thing in common: it is written in English. Just imagine the amount of exiting, creative and original ideas out there that do not make the top journals because they are in different, often Non-Western languages.
The language discrimination present in the academic world made me realise something: there are brilliant people who are not being heard. This made me reconsider my position as a student: it was time to become critical. This is why I decided to join the Rutu Foundation as a volunteer: because I do not want to accept that we live in a world where language discrimination, not only in academics but especially in the lives of individuals is the norm. Rutu Foundation combats language discrimination and fights for diversity.
Are you looking for a way to get involved as well? Send us an email. Rutu is regularly looking for interns and volunteers!