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Joe LoBianco
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Joe LoBianco

Professor of Language and Literacy Education
University of Melbourne, Australia

Ethnic Separatism, Social Conflict and Violence: The Role of Deliberative Language Planning in Conflict Zones


Language debates in multiethnic societies and the processes used by political systems to make decisions about language questions have long been of direct interest to applied linguists. The consequences of specific educational and political choices can be a source of social tension. Although governments often claim that policy is “evidence based” there is no straightforward relationship between what counts as “evidence,” how and who produces it, and how “evidence” is applied to policy making. Policy analysis shows that much research has a marginal or ambiguous role in political decision-making. In cases of extreme disruption to social order what role can “explicit linguistic knowledge” have on questions of language choice and curriculum content, program design and teaching methodology? This talk focuses on settings where these mainstays of applied linguistics are associated with extreme forms of social conflict and even violence directed at teachers and schools. In such contexts can applied linguistics or research evidence assist in conflict mitigation?

Dr. LoBianco will describe a project of language education policy analysis and intervention in three conflict zones in SE Asia. Since 2012 he has been investigating links between language and social cohesion in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand under the aegis of UNICEF and respective Ministries of Education. The presentation will focus on a unique sociolinguistic context from each setting, especially the contrast between minority and indigenous claims for language rights and language recognition, and official positions.


Dr. Joseph LoBianco is Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He serves as Past President, Australian Academy of the Humanities; Past President, Tsinghua, Asia-Pacific Forum on Translation and Intercultural Studies; and Advisor, Research Centre for Foreign Language Education, Beijing Foreign Studies University. His principal academic qualifications are Bachelor of Economics/Political Science, Monash University; Bachelor of Education, La Trobe University; M.A. in Language Studies, University of Melbourne and Ph.D., Australian National University. He has written more than 32 books and major reports and 130 chapters and articles. In 1987 his National Policy on Languages was adopted as Australia’s first official language policy. Since then he has worked as a language-planning advisor in numerous countries, including Sri Lanka (bilingual education), Scotland (national policy), Thailand (national language planning), and Ireland (twenty-year strategy for revival of Irish).

Current research and advisory projects include:

Intercultural Approaches to Teaching Chinese, (Australian Research Council);
Language and Social Cohesion in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, (UNICEF East Asia Office);
Language in Urban Spaces; municipal multilingualism in European cities, (European Commission);
Online tutoring (Guiyang and Melbourne), peer instruction, Chinese and English (International Baccalaureate, Singapore);
Preparation of “Peace Building National Language Policy for Myanmar, (UNICEF)".

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