'Stikla siena': transparent boundaries for 'foreigners' in Latvian academia
Gareth Hamilton (University of Latvia)
Paper short abstract:
This paper, based on (partly auto)ethnographic experience, documents and analyses the ‘glass walls’ which are either deliberately or inadvertently erected to hamper integration of ‘foreign’ academics within the university and academic system of a former Soviet – now EU – country.
Paper long abstract:
This paper, based on (partly auto)ethnographic experience, documents and analyses the 'glass walls' which are either deliberately or inadvertently erected to hamper integration of 'foreign' academics within the university and academic system of a former Soviet - now EU - country. Based on the case of Latvia, it attempts to explore how linguistic and nationalistic politics/policies and practices impact upon the university's and state's aims of attracting academics from abroad, taking note of the ironic situation where many Latvian academic talents have moved abroad. It does so by examining, firstly, Latvia's language policies (created in the presence of a large ethno-linguistic minority) and their symbolic, exclusionary aims. Second, it shows how such stated aims build transparent yet immovable and seemingly inflexible boundaries within a complex bureaucratic structures which aim to attract 'foreigners' but through certain practices exclude the very persons which are targeted by such actions. This is based on the experience of applying for funding schemes and the modalities involved, as well insufficient support for language learning for 'foreign' academics, plus issues which apparently transparent language policies cause for tenure track positions despite official support for non-'state language' taught courses and the drive for non-native language competence. Third, it shows ways in which EU funding of certain programmes in research and teaching challenge this 'glass wall', means of negotiating such boundaries (including the gatekeepers involved), and suggests ways in which integration but maintaining the importance of the 'state language' can be achieved.
Walls of glass: visibility and transparence in materiality and metaphor