«This book is about language and the city. Pennycook and Otsuji introduce the notion of ‘metrolingualism’, showing how language and the city are ...»
7. T: Get that one and we’ll get you another one. [to the customer] Between lines 1 and 4, Muhibb and Talib continue to deal with the zucchini order, conﬁrming the number of boxes and price and using English and Arabic resources in a mixture common to second generation immigrants working in such an environment. Here, however, Talib’s use of Arabic to acknowledge that the zucchini they are trying to sell have turned yellow (line 5) is picked up by the customer: He knows the meaning of isfar (lines 6). This seems to concur with Joseph’s view that they know a bit of each other’s languages, though in the case of Maltese and Arabic, this is not wholly surprising (isfar is also the Maltese for yellow). More generally, however, this shows how people draw on their own resources in achieving tasks at hand and how items such as yellow zucchini (the food rather than the linguistic form) play a mediating role in the metrolingual action. Metrolingual practices concern the whole package of linguistic resources, personal trajectories and repertoires, objects and space.
Talib and Muhibb speak both English and Lebanese Arabic, and the interactions between them frequently contain both. Arabic is commonly used for numbers and quantities, but here it may also have the capacity to conceal their discussions from the customer, though this appears to backﬁre when the customer recognizes the Arabic/Maltese for yellow. With other workers on their part of the ﬂoor speaking a variety of languages, English and Arabic may be used separately or together, depending on the people with whom they are interacting. In the fast-paced buying and selling, moving and ordering of this space, however, patterns of language use are not easily predictable. With varied linguistic trajectories and repertoires, with varied possibilities for ‘lingo-ing’, the patterns are always emergent in the local interaction. This is more than ‘feeling comfortable to lingo in [their] own background’ but is rather the process of management and engagement of linguistic resources as part of wider metrolingual practices involving people, space and vegetables.
This example also shows again the layers of action, interaction and transaction in metrolingual multitasking practices, as the brothers move around, assess prices and quantities, check the quality of the vegetables and negotiate with customers.
It is to capture this relationship between the linguistic resources (which include varieties of Arabic, varieties of English and a range of mixed practices), everyday tasks (the buying and selling of vegetables, the stacking of pallets as orders are ﬁlled, the lifting of boxes, and updates on supermarket special deals) and social space (the size of their operation within this warehouse, its location around ‘Door 2’ at the ‘Lebanese end’, the predominantly male sociality of the customers, workers and cafés) that we focus on metrolingual multitasking. This metrolingual multitasking then needs to be understood in relation to the spatial repertoires (discussed further in Chapter 4) of this workplace.
This understanding of repertoires of linguistic resources draws on the earlier work of Gumperz, who described linguistic repertoires as ‘the totality of linguistic Morning markets and metrolingual multitasking 9 forms regularly employed in the course of socially signiﬁcant interaction’ (1964, p. 137).
Questioning the idea of the speech community on which Gumperz’s work depended, more recent approaches to this idea have focused on the historical trajectories of individuals as they move through time and space, including the bodily, emotional and historical-political dimensions of life trajectories (Busch, 2012b; 2013). Repertoires, from Blommaert and Backus’ (2013) point of view are therefore ‘individual, biographically organized complexes of resources’ that ‘follow the rhythms of actual human lives’ (p. 15) and ‘reﬂect the polycentricity of the learning environments in which the speaker dwells’ (p. 20).
Lest repertoires are seen as located only within and at the disposal of the individual, however, we have developed the idea of spatial repertoires, akin in some ways (see discussion in Chapter 4) to Li Wei’s notion of translanguaging space (2011, p. 1223). Talib and Muhibb bring to their work their own linguistic repertoires based on their particular histories as second generation LebaneseAustralian market workers. These linguistic resources, however, can only be understood in relation to the practices they engage in (buying, selling, ordering, stacking) and the other linguistic resources that people bring to this space (varieties of Arabic, English and other languages) and which then form such spatial repertoires. From our point of view, then, we need to understand the relations between personal trajectories, current activities and spatial repertoires in order to account more fully for the language practices of market places and other contexts of metrolingual interaction.
Multilingualism from below We have drawn attention here to the everydayness of metrolingual practices. This view we are connecting more broadly to Higgins and Coen’s (2000) views on the ordinariness of diversity whereby ‘diversity is the given reality of human social action – it does not have to be found; it is already there’ (p. 15). We are also drawing here on ideas of multiculturalism and globalization from below. For Wise and Velayutham (2009), multiculturalism from below, or everyday multiculturalism, is understood as ‘a grounded approach to looking at the everyday practice and lived experience of diversity in speciﬁc situations and spaces of encounter’ (p. 3). Rather than the policy-oriented, top-down approaches to multiculturalism that look at ethnic groups in terms of rights, entities and social groupings, the attempt here is to get at everyday practices, at the ways, for example, that young people work their way through cultural diversity in multicultural cities and suburbs (Harris, 2013), at the small-scale local encounters of ‘intercultural “rubbing along” in the public spaces of the city’ (Watson, 2009, p. 126). From this point of view, we can only understand everyday multiculturalism or metrolingualism ‘in its local sociocultural speciﬁcity’ (p. 127). This is the space of ordinary or working class cosmopolitanism, of the ‘incremental and dialogic construction of lived identities’ (Ang, 2001, p. 159) in mundane interactions over fruit, vegetables, prices, and other market practices.
10 Morning markets and metrolingual multitasking Wise (2009) develops the notion of quotidian tansversality to describe the ways in which ‘individuals in everyday spaces use particular modes of sociality to produce or smooth interrelations across cultural difference’ (p. 23). Quotidian tansversality, she explains, is neither hybridity nor code-mixing; nor is it an assimilationist or integrationist notion of exchange requiring unbalanced forms of accommodation. Instead, the focus here is on ‘how cultural difference can be the basis for commensality and exchange; where identities are not left behind, but can be shifted and opened up in moments of non-hierarchical reciprocity, and are sometimes mutually reconﬁgured in the process’ (p. 23). Everyday forms of exchange – fruit, vegetables and garden produce between neighbours, for example – ‘produce capacities for the recognition or acknowledgement of otherness in situational speciﬁcity’ (p. 35). A central part of this, from our point of view, is the quotidian translinguality used in such encounters, the negotiation of language resources, the deployment of multiple semiotic codes in interactive moments.
Everyday urban multilingualism – metrolingualism – is that form of quotidian translingual exchange that is part of how the city works, how language and identity are negotiated. And while Wise focuses on cultural difference as the basis for commensality, we shall focus in coming chapters (see Chapter 6) on the linguistic differences in relation to commensality.
As Noble (2009) notes, the super-diversity described by Vertovec (2006) and taken up by many others (e.g. Blommaert, 2010) to account for the increasing diversity in European cities, has long been part of the common reality in Australian cities. The idea of super-diversity is largely a European reaction to the recent necessary engagement with urban diversity. But the rest of the world has been doing diversity for a lot longer. What is now going on in Australian cities, Noble argues, discussing a study of Australian diversity (Ang et al., 2006), is a form of
In trying to understand everyday cosmopolitanism, Noble (2009) argues for the need to study unpanicked multiculturalism: ‘spaces of cultural complexity which don’t become subject to conﬂict or anxieties regarding social fragmentation’ (pp.
50–51). From this point of view, rather than viewing cosmopolitanism in terms of some moral ideal of openness and interaction, it can be viewed as ‘forms of situated, strategic, transactional labour’ (p. 52). Likewise, our focus is not on some idealized state of marvelous multilingualism but rather on the everyday work of unpanicked metrolingual practices. The mischievous challenges in the zucchini transactions shown previously are not so much panicked multilingualism as everyday metrolingual exchanges.
Morning markets and metrolingual multitasking 11 This also ties in with the idea of globalization from below, a term used to describe ‘globalization as experienced by most of the world’s people’ or more explicitly as ‘the transnational ﬂow of people and goods involving relatively small amounts of capital and informal, often semi-legal or illegal transactions’ (Mathews & Vega, 2012, p. 1). Globalization from below is similar to Appadurai’s (2001) grassroots globalization, part of his understanding that ‘we are functioning in a world fundamentally characterized by objects in motion’, which include ‘ideas and ideologies, people and goods, images and messages, technologies and techniques’ (p. 5). An understanding of globalization from below typically involves a focus on market places and cities with large informal economies (Guangzhou, Mexico City, Kolkata, Cairo and São Paolo are typical examples; Mathews, 2012), but it also occurs in all those local markets and interactions across many smaller domains.
These local yet global markets are all around us. In a small shopping plaza in a northern Sydney suburb, alongside the Japanese grocery store, butcher, Indian spice shop, and the African and Nepalese restaurants, an Indian arts and crafts shop sells saris to Anglo-Bollywood party goers. The owner, who is from Punjab and tells us he speaks Hindi, Dogri, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Haryanyi and English, goes to India every six months to purchase Indian arts, crafts and jewellery to supply the niche Sydney market for Bollywood parties. Meanwhile, the very produce market complex where Muhibb and Talib sell cherry tomatoes and extra large zucchini becomes on Fridays a market where products such as leather jackets, cosmetics, batik clothes, wigs, music and CDs, herbs and spices converge from all over the world.
And on the weekend, it becomes a produce market where, as Joseph explains, recently arrived refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan take advantage of the bulk food prices: ‘They’ve settled in Sydney district over here and they use the market to do their shopping in bulk for their family. So they’ve obviously done their homework and they do it that way’ (Joseph, interview, August 8, 2012). In the multiethnic Sydney suburb of Marrickville, Song’s Discount Store sells anything from plastic ﬂowers and kitchenware to framed texts from the Koran alongside models of Genesha, the Hindu elephant-headed deity, Christian iconography, including a plastic model of the last supper, and gold ‘Lucky Cats’ gesturing with their left paw at passers-by. Song herself, the co-owner, speaks Thai, Lao and Teochow (her ‘mother tongue’), as well as Mandarin and bits and pieces of Cantonese, Vietnamese and Greek that she has picked up from her interactions with her diverse clientele (see Chapter 5). The products in her store, cheaply produced, cheaply sold, make their way to such outlets through the diverse pathways of grassroots globalization. These places, therefore, are diverse not only in terms of the products stacked up alongside each other but also in terms of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the people who shop here.
These ‘markets, ﬂows, and trade networks that are part of globalization from below’ relate to what Ribeiro (2012, p. 221) calls ‘the non-hegemonic world
system’, an alternative to the dominant and homogenizing forces of globalization:
‘Globalization from below is structured by ﬂows of people, goods, information, and capital among different production centres and market places which, in turn,