CFP – Language Matters: Printing news in English Abroad/ Foreign-Language Publishing in the English-Speaking World

5th International Transfopress Encounter
Université Paris Diderot (Université Sorbonne Paris Cité), 

16-17 October, 2017, Paris Diderot University & Bibliothèque nationale de France

Partner institutions: Université Versailles-St Quentin & Bibliothèque nationale de France

For its 5th international symposium, the Transfopress Network would like to consider both journalism in English in countries whose official language(s), whether de facto or de jure, do(es) not include English and the foreign-language press in countries whose official language(s) include(s) English.

The foreign-language press, defined here as the press written in languages other than the national language(s), is an important historical, but also contemporary, international phenomenon. Yet, it is a somewhat elusive study object that had – until recently – partly skipped off the radar of both researchers and libraries worldwide, including deposit libraries to this very day, often simply because it has too readily been equated with the immigrant or the ethnic presses, which have always been perceived as marginal in the history of printing. Although there have been attempts at listing foreign press titles, these have often been incomplete or misleading precisely for a lack of a thorough definition of the foreign-language press and its scope.

As shown in the previous Transfopress conferences, the foreign-language press overlaps with the ethnic press, but they are not equivalent as ethnic newspapers may very well be published in the official language of the territorial entity where they are published. Besides, the scope of the foreign-language press is much more variegated as the latter encompasses not only ethnic, immigrant, or exile newspapers, but also a vast array of periodicals produced outside of immigrant communities such as travellers’ bulletins, literary or artistic journals and reviews, foreign-language specialized press (such as the medical press). The typology may be enriched with the discovery of new, previously never studied, or even uncatalogued foreign language press titles.

Renewed attention to this material culture phenomenon in the last few years has resulted in a desire of libraries throughout the world to better identify such foreign-language press collections, possibly correct errors in catalogue entries and digitalize some of these collections, sometimes as part of a wider scheme. In that regard, American libraries, whether in the United States and Canada, or in Brazil and Mexico, have taken the lead, bringing to the researchers’ attention new unexpected titles showing the richness of that material. Taking stock of this surge of interest in the foreign-language press on the part of library institutions, organizers invite their staff to present such projects hinging upon the foreign-language press, be it in terms of recataloguing or digitalization. In the case of ethnic papers, the historiography of the foreign-language press in the USA and in Australia has been thriving, by contrast to Britain in particular. The conference organizers hope that the 5th Transfopress symposium will provide opportunities to identify and fill such gaps.

Beyond bibliographic ambitions, this conference aims above all at spurring reflection as to the relationship such foreign-language press titles entertain with the mainstream national press, as well as with other foreign-language press titles or other titles published in the same language but in different countries. Case studies are welcome to interrogate this reception/ production dialectics with a sharp focus on unravelling the motivations and functions of language choice.

As far as the production of such titles is concerned, a number of questions – not exhaustive – come to mind. How do journalists who contribute to such foreign-language press titles perceive their role? Are they engaged in nationalist struggles, in which the publication of a foreign-language title is then but yet another weapon? For the immigrant and ethnic presses in particular, do retained formats shape a distinct identity, whether multicultural or segregationist, etc.? How are such publications financed? Are these private initiatives, or are they financed with public money, including that of governments of foreign countries? What variety/ standard of language or even register is used? What identity does it entail – in particular, contrary to Joshua Fishman’s cue that ‘beloved language is not an abstraction’ (In Praise of the Beloved Language, 1999, p. 22) can the variety of language chosen be emotionally-loaded and reconstructed with a view to reach an ideal language? In the case of bilingual or trilingual titles, what other languages are chosen and how are these choices accounted for? Is there such a thing as an explicit rejection of the English language, because the prominence of the latter threatens minor languages maintenance? Or by contrast are there cases of English being used as the lingua franca by journalists of a non-English background in a country whose official language is not English? In terms of contents, for bilingual or trilingual publications, how does the proportion of each language contribute to shaping a distinct identity that readers are expected to endorse? In those specific Multilanguage publications, are texts identical and if not, what does that discrepancy reveal of the newspaper? Foreign-language press titles are often short-lived, as amongst other difficulties, they often address a small readership. What then are the evolutions such foreign-language press titles may have considered to continue running, including turning to English? Although the heyday of the foreign-language press is often situated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the prevalence of the phenomenon cannot be disputed as New York boasts to have 95 ethnic newspapers, many of which published in a language other than English. In the context of the diversification of media and the booming of the online press, how do such foreign-press language printed titles fare and adapt? While a decision to go online clearly blurs the definition that has been given of the foreign-language press, does it have an impact on the conveyed message for such press titles? What changes in terms of leadership, readership, editing and financing do the immigrant titles that go online undergo? How do they interact with the other news or community blogs produced in other countries where the same language communities have settled and with those of their country of origin?

Away from or sometimes in correlation with production considerations, the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of foreign-language press titles often generate contemporary reactions. Robert E. Park’s study, The Immigrant Press and Its Control, is a pioneering, seminal example of this. The perception of the ‘host society’ for such titles leads us to consider the following questions – again, the list is not exclusive. How are the titles perceived in the country in which they are published, by those who can read the language – are there generational expectations or conflicts for example? How are such publications regarded by those who cannot read the language, and a fortiori by the State? Are attempts at controlling the foreign-language press specific to the USA of the early 20th-century only or is that a general phenomenon as the Australian example seems to suggest? Did the rise of English to world prominence after WW1 have an impact on the publishing of new English titles abroad? Did specific experiences like the occupation by the US army of some territories in Europe after WW2 produce specific English language titles? Is the choice of a foreign language a way for periodicals to offer an alternative viewpoint on the society they are living in, as shown in the case of Hispanic papers in the USA?

Both case studies and papers engaged in a wider reflection on several titles are welcome. Papers presenting a cross perspective will be appreciated. Abstracts of maximum 500 words are to be sent along with a short CV to the organizers before 15 February, 2017.

Bénédicte Deschamps

Stéphanie Prévost

Diana Cooper-Richet

Isabelle Richet