Sociolinguistics Lunch: Maria Rosa Garrido Sardà (Université de Lausanne)

FEB 14, 2020 | 2:00 PM TO 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




February 14, 2020: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM




Maria Rosa Garrido Sardà (Université de Lausanne) presents:

The goal of this paper is to analyze the ideological constructions of English and French at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the oldest existing humanitarian agency, from the perspective of its Geneva headquarters. More particularly, I will focus on the sociolinguistic consequences of the “internationalization” process that opened mobile posts (“delegate”) to all nationalities, which were reserved for Swiss nationals until 1992. This process transformed the ICRC from a Swiss association with an international mandate into a multi-national “humanitarian enterprise” (Palmieri 2012). This has resulted in transformations of the value of working languages and fluctuating linguistic requirements for mobile staff. Although English and French are both “institutional languages”, English has gradually become the main lingua franca in an institution that used to be predominantly Francophone (Mercier 2004: 34). However, French still indexes the ICRC’s origins in “international Geneva” and is required, in addition to English, for mobile positions in some recruitment campaigns and for higher management in headquarters. The data include interviews with different generations of delegates, institutional documents such as brochures and job advertisements, and ethnographic fieldnotes from recruitment events.