We launched Language Acts and Worldmaking in November 2016 with a series of workshops and a lecture by Professor Doris Sommer, Harvard University. The aim of the launch of was to take our first steps towards creating a community of people who will engage with Language Acts and Worldmaking as we seek to understand in depth the work of language learning, multilingualism and cultural diversity in our society and to use that understanding to inform how we teach and research languages in their complex relationship to our changing realities.
In her lecture Professor Sommer introduced the audience to her work on the projects she directs from Harvard, Cultural Agents and Pre-Texts. These are projects that seek to put the work of the Arts and Humanities in the practical service of the social and cultural issues that surround us, and Professor Sommer has been disseminating this work across the United States and Latin America in recent years. We then held three Pre-Texts workshops, aimed at sharing a methodology for training teachers that ‘combines high-order literacy, innovation and citizenship’, following a ‘protocol that turns educators into facilitators for student-centered learning’. The workshops, held at King’s College London, Senate House University of London and Westminster University, brought together students, educators and artists in an exploration of texts by Friedrich Von Schiller (Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man) and by Aeshylus (Prometheus Unbound). Through engaging in activities of creative sharing that come from the workplace–reading aloud– and from crisis–the creation of cardboard books in economic hardship–participants started to learn the methods developed by Pre-Texts.
The launch weekend was translation at its broadest and best, and goes to the heart of Language Acts and Worldmaking. It is the translation of methods for learning and of ways of seeing and being in the world that teach us that people do inventive transformative work based on the imagination of change every day all over the world. The affirmation that our words do work in the world, that we use our command of languages as a material and historical force for change.