Languages and the (inter)national imaginary: Esperanto in Switzerland

Multilingualism in institutions and society
Project management:
01.2018 to 12.2019

The aim of this research project is to highlight the emergence and development of the Esperantist discourse and movement in Switzerland, in connection with its characteristic sociopolitical and discursive conditions: neutrality and multilingualism. In addition, the project examines how the sociopolitical and discursive conditions specific to Switzerland contribute to the positioning of Swiss Esperantists within the global Esperanto movement. Adopting a historiographic and critical approach, this research project highlights how a project that transcends national boundaries by means of a constructed language is embedded at the national level.

The sociolinguistic interest of this work lies in the fact that an analysis of constructed languages such as Esperanto cannot be considered independently from the sociopolitical movements underlying their creation and their existence, as these are often rooted in a context of rivalries and tensions. As such, rivalries between (‟natural‟ and/or ‟constructed‟) languages mask the competition between the underlying sociopolitical movements that support a specific social ideology and structuration. The same rivalries also exist within the Esperanto movement itself; moreover, they find their source in the ideological context specific to a given national territory. As a consequence, the Esperantist discourse takes on various forms, depending on the different national contexts in which they emerge and take shape.