Working extensively among multilingual communities can be methodologically challenging and epistemologically productive. Through my ethnographic engagement with the Greek linguistic minority of South Italy (Grecanici) I propose that a complementary approach to multilingual research can yield fruitful anthropological and sociological data that will enhance our understanding and deepen our analytical capacity when conducting research within multilingual communities.
Grecanici are trilingual: they speak Grecanico (also termed ‘Griko’ or‘Greco’), which is comprised of archaic Doric, Hellenistic, Byzantine as well as local Romanic and Italian linguistic elements. They also speak the local Calabrian dialect and the official Italian language. Grecanici have managed to successfully promote their minority status in contemporary politics through linguistic claims.
A common complication when working with multilingual people is a shifting in discourse resulting from switching language. Such switching is usually employed to signify specific kinds of connections and inclusions as well as disconnections and exclusions. Multilingualism unavoidably introduces incommensurabilities which can nevertheless be overcome through a methodological approach which examines language and discourse as complementary entities. The Researching Multilingually network provides a unique opportunity to talk of all things language from an interdisciplinary perspective.
I am a teaching fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University from where I received my PhD in 2010. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Italy and Greece and publish in English and Greek. For more information on publications and my research profile see http://www.dur.ac.uk/anthropology/staff/academic/profile/?id=5512