Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Living Together in Multilingual Societies: International Mother Language Day 2022 at HU/IAAW

A one-day digital event (21.02.2022), organised in the framework of “Beyond Social Cohesion – Global Repertoires of Living Together (RePLITO)”, funded by the Berlin University Alliance

International Mother Language Day was established by UNESCO in 1999 to promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education. LIVING TOGETHER IN MULTIlLINGUAL SOCIETIES is the theme of this year's program at HU's Institute for Asian and African Studies. Authoritarian nationalism and language politics; linguistic diversity and social cohesion, as well as the role of poetry and literature in protest movements, are three focal points of the event. Our international guests include renowned violinist Iskandar Widjaja (Germany/Indonesia), writer and poet Meena Kandasamy (India), and the activist and diplomat Ronny Kareni (West Papua/Australia).

The individual sessions are open for everyone interested.


READ THE PRESS RELEASE HERE (English and German version.



UPDATE (March 14, 2022)

Video recordings of some of the panels can be accessed here.


This event is organised by Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider and funded by the Berlin University Alliance in the framework of RePLITO.



10:15-10:30am (CET)

Welcome & short introduction

Nadja-Christina Schneider


10:30-12:00am (CET)

Multimedia exhibition: “What’s in a Sound? Sociolinguistics meets Sound Studies” 

Alexa Altmann & students

In the seminar’s multimedia exhibition, students will showcase their individual experimental projects on the theoretical and methodological intersections of Sound Studies and Sociolinguistics. The exhibition will be accessible online for an interested public and students will be able to guide visitors digitally through the exhibition.

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Parallel sessions:

10:30-11:30am (CET)

,,We don't use that word" - The Political Vocabulary of Muslim Feminists in Indonesia

Saskia Schäfer, Leona Pröpper

Young Indonesian Muslim feminists have introduced a new vocabulary for their online activism that is humorous, friendly and constantly evolving via neologisms and creative language practices. Their activism contradicts the image that feminism must necessarily be confrontational and militant, thus illustrating that feminism comes in many different forms. We will look at some examples of their language and image-making strategies on Instagram and discuss the possibilities and limitations of digital feminism.

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10:30-11:30am (CET)

Mongolian Language: The Symbolic Meaning of Its Cyrillic and Classical Script

Ganchimeg Altangerel, Tanja Kapp & Gunnar Baum

Mongolian language and its script has undergone some major changes due to political power. Written  Mongolian changed from the classical Mongolian script, which was introduced in the 13th century under Chingis Khaan, to the Cyrillic script in the middle of the 20th century because of the strong influence from the Soviet Union. However, the classical script is considered by many Mongolians, especially those in Inner Mongolia (PRC), to be essential to Mongolian identity and culture, which has led to a recent revival of the script across Mongolia.

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10:30-11:30am (CET)

Language nationalisms and cinema in South India

Jenson Joseph

The linguistic-cultural regions that constitute South India have many traits of nations, though they are not nationalities per se. This quasi-national status have evolved from historical contexts, and have produced interesting cultural phenomena. For example, scholars have studied the tremendous political influence that some of the male film stars exert in these regions since the 1950s. This presentation will offer an introduction to the scholarship on the phenomenon of “star-worship” in the South Indian linguistic regions.

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12-2pm (CET)

Expressing merdeka - talking language, identity and (artistic) activism in West Papua's liberation

Sydney Noemi Stein and guest Ronny Kareni

The island of New Guinea is the world’s most culturally and linguistically diverse place. More than 800 languages are spoken here, yet many face extinction. In the western part of the island, ever since invasion by Indonesia in 1962, West Papuans not only face threats to their indigenous languages, but also to their freedom and human rights. Together with Papuan musician, activist and diplomat Ronny Kareni, we want to discuss matters of forced acculturation, (neo-)colonialism and artistic forms of activism in West Papua’s battle for merdeka, freedom.

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Parallel sessions:

2:30-3:30pm (CET)

The Language and Politics of Exclusion: Public debates on LGBTIQ* people in Indonesia and Turkey

Wikke Jansen, Mehmet Keserli & Saskia Schäfer

In several countries across the globe, heterosexual norms have shifted to outright anti-queer rhetoric   and action in the form of violence and laws. We focus on the cases of Indonesia and Turkey, where the shift from growing visibility and increasingly vocal demands for LGBTIQ* rights to an atmosphere of aggression happened relatively suddenly in the 2010s and 20s. We analyse the actors behind this shift and ask how queer communities are countering these attempts to other them.

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2:30-3:30pm (CET)

Multilingualism on the ground: A round trip through Botswana

Linda Gerlach & Christfried Naumann 

In our presentation we will take a closer look at multilingualism in Botswana by zooming into a variety of locations (big and small cities, rural areas, etc.). In doing so we will shortly introduce which languages and language families are involved and investigate what leads to these specific multilingual situations.

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2:30-3:30pm (CET)

Multilingual practices in a refugee camp (Lesbos, Greece)

Hadis Yakubi, Mehdi Darif & Nagehan Uskan

In our presentation, by including our first person stories, we will speak about the dynamics of communication between different communities in old Moria and in the actual Mavrovouni refugee camps in Lesbos Island on the border of Greece. We will discuss which are the obstacles of not having a common language and how people create different tools in order to overcome the segregation created by this and try to live together in a camp which is a common living space for people fleeing because of different reasons to Europe in search of a safe life. In addition to this, we will present a small dictionary of words commonly used by the actual residents of Mavrovouni camp.

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4-5:30pm (CET)

Pebbles in Mouth: Politics of Language and Authoritarian Nationalism

A panel discussion with Meena Kandasamy, Farhana Latief and Shubham Shree

Reyazul Haque

Under the current authoritarian regime, a certain flavor of Hindi language is being imposed upon the more accessible forms of Hindi/Urdu and also on major languages in the sub-continent of India, like Tamil. But not only that, Urdu and Urdu sounded Hindi is now persecuted openly. How does this phenomenon impacts the non-dominant communities within the Union of India, is the concern of this discussion. How the imposition of a certain form of Hindi is going to affect non-Hindi communities, minorities, and the Hindi region itself. What does it have to do with the formation of oppressive power relations and majoritarian politics? And how this drive plays a crucial role in political conflicts such as Kashmir.

The first part of the session will be based on 15-12-minute presentations by speakers, followed by a round of discussion.

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5:45-6:45pm (CET)

Protest Lyric: Poetry and Music in the Context of Indian Protest Movements

A multimedia presentation on poetic expressions of resistance in the Indian context. Different genres and examples of ‘viral’ poetry will be introduced. 

Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, Monika Freier & students: Emily Engler, Devina Khurana, Peggy Maeyer, Ngoc Lin Mai, Lila Miran

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7pm (CET)

Live Performance of the Song "Indonesia Pusaka" by Star Violinist Iskandar Widjaja


Iskandar Widjaja is a world-class violonist with Indonesian roots, a true virtuoso. He will interpret the Indonesia song
"Indonesia Pusaka" on his violine. This song is usually performed on festive occasions of Indonesia's Independence Day,
and sung by a big chorus. 

After Iskandar Widjaja's violine performance, the artist will respond to questions from the audience.

Esie Hanstein will give a short introduction before the performance starts.

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Programme poster

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Programme flyer

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We would also like to draw your attention to the online symposium "Gender and Online Learning", supported by Einstein Foundation. For questions regarding this event, please contact our colleague at IAAW, Dr. Handan Çağlayan (caglayah (at)


Link to the programme pdf


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