Linus Salö
Linus Salö

Webbinarium i Zoom

Om Zoom


In meta-scientific debates surrounding academe, there presently exists a global push for making universities matter. There is a call to reinvigorate the value of universities’ social responsibilities, according to which we would reorient towards extra-scientific modes of knowledge exchange and making research accountable to end-users rather than to scientific peers only (e.g. Burawoy, 2005; Sarewitz, 2016). This call should be of topical importance for scholars within the field of bi/multilingualism.

In this talk, synthesizing the insights from a number of recent collaborative publications (Salö, in press; Salö et al. 2018, in press; Salö & Karlander, in press), I will argue that there are lessons to be learned by considering historical cases where the socially embedded language sciences have had a real-world impact. One such case is minority mother-tongue instruction (MTI) in Sweden, which is currently provided in and about some 160 languages. The talk deals with this policy’s emergence in the 1960s and 70s, so as to account for the sociohistorical conditions and knowledge-exchanges that made it possible. Drawing in particular on the empirical insights of one study (Salö, in press), the talk centers on ‘The Immigrant Commission’ (IC), ongoing 1968–1974, which brought about a change of tack – from implicit assimilation to explicit pluralism – in Sweden’s immigration-related policies.

The data-set consists of preserved meeting minutes, PMs, drafts, and incoming correspondence. Utilizing Pierre Bourdieu’s historical sociology of knowledge, the study shows how the work of IC became a form of consultation between agents from the scientific, political and bureaucratic fields. Through collaboration, academic knowledge was able to seep into the policy making process to gradually gain recognition in Sweden’s field of power. Swedish MTI thus owes its existence much to the capacity of scientific agents – including bi/multilingualism scholars – to produce actionable knowledge with durable, impactful effects. Hence, as I contend, Swedish universities have mattered and understanding their historically efficacious modus operandi in this regard is useful in relation to contemporary processes of science–policy interaction.

I will end the talk by taking stock and looking forward. Does our field currently matter? Do we want it to matter more? Could a renewed interest in science–policy interaction provide a viable pathway forward?