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The Political Economy of Accent: A Study of the Commodification of English in the Call Centres of Pakistan

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Dr. Tariq Rahman, Dean, School of Education, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore


This article looks at accent as linguistic capital in the call centres of Pakistan. The value is added by a process called ‘neutralization of accent’ which means substituting some Pakistani features of the accent by American or British ones. The workers who learn this ‘native’ (American or British) accent talk to American and British English-speakers on the phone trying to pass as Native speakers of English. The call centres create a virtual reality in which the language, accent, names, locations and identities of the hegemonic centre (America) are invested with value which is exchanged for money. Workers of call centres appear to be the agents of the globalizing discourses which are associated with the expansion of the free market and American cultural practices. However, they do not constitute such a sizable group as to be able to pioneer any significant change in the cultural and linguistic habits of the rest of the Pakistani elite.

About the presenter:

Tariq Rahman PhD is a highly published scholar with over 93 articles in scholarly journals; 18 books; 20 entries in encyclopedias and reference books; 32 contributions to books and several book reviews. His most famous book Language and Politics in Pakistan, published by Oxford (Pakistan) in 1996, remains in print and has been published by Orient Blackswan in India. His history of language-learning among the Muslims of South Asia, Language, Ideology and Power (OUP 2002), remains a landmark in the field and has also been published by the Orrient in 2008. One of his books, Denizens of Alien Worlds (OUP 2004), connects the medium of instruction with world view, poverty and politics in Pakistan. His latest book From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History is a social and political history of Urdu and has been published simultaneously by Oxford (Pakistan) and Orient (India) in 2011. Dr. Rahman is also the recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award in 2011, lifetime Achievement Award by the HEC in 1999; the Presidential Pride of Performance in 1995 and a number of other awards for research.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 4/03/2014 10:10:00 AM,

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