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Engaged humanities in Europe: Capacity building for participatory research in linguistic-cultural heritage

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENGHUM (Engaged humanities in Europe: Capacity building for participatory research in linguistic-cultural heritage)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-12-31

The ENGHUM project focused on innovative and holistic approaches to studying linguistic-cultural heritage and the revitalization of endangered languages. It was carried out by the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” of the University of Warsaw in close cooperation with the Department of Linguistics in SOAS at the University of London, and the Centre for Linguistics in the Faculty of Humanities and the Department of Archaeological Heritage in the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University. The cornerstone of the project was multi-dimensional capacity-building in participatory action research, transdisciplinary studies on language and culture, as well as selected aspects of applied linguistics related to language policy, multilingualism and the teaching of minority languages. Capacity-building was directly linked to practical activities carried out in and with local communities struggling to preserve their languages, and was directly aimed at social transformation and the strengthening of linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe and beyond. An essential goal of the ENGHUM activities has been to foster a networking space for diverse societal sectors to build partnerships and create solutions for more sustainable, holistic, multilevel community development through language and culture. The active involvement of local language minority communities in the Twinning activities has been essential to this goal and to achieving a major social impact.

Of special importance for the project have been efficient strategies embracing community-driven and decolonizing research paradigms that directly benefit language communities during every stage of research projects, provide empowerment, stimulate local agency and foster fair ways of collaborating with mainstream research institutions. By developing and implementing these solutions, the ENGHUM project has contributed to creating new spaces and opportunities for marginalized groups in Europe and beyond. This model of research has focused on the principles of critical reflectivity and decolonization aimed at overcoming many forms of discrimination and preparing mainstream research institutions to become culturally aware, informed allies who stand beside vulnerable cultural groups out of a genuine interest in preserving cultural and linguistic diversity.
"Within the ENGHUM project we organized over 300 lectures, presentations, and practical capacity building activities in Europe and Mexico. The latter include field schools, summer schools, workshops, field visits and artistic/cultural events (see We have been able to develop new skills and methodologies for language documentation and revitalization. These activities have also contributed to the creation of the principle ENGHUM publication “Revitalizing endangered languages: a practical guide”, edited by Justyna Olko and Julia Sallabank, which will be published in Open Access by Cambridge University Press. Among other important results are the creation of the Center for Research and Practice in Cultural Continuity at the University of Warsaw and the launching of three new team research projects closely linked to the themes of ENGHUM and funded by European and national sources. Further achievements include improving methods and techniques for the collection of ethnolinguistic field research data; creating and sharing audiovisual documentation for the purposes of language revitalization programs; implementing strategies for the digital activation of indigenous languages; undertaking transdisciplinary research in language and culture with special regard to traditional knowledge, indigenous methodologies, and community-driven research; refining and applying new research infrastructure, tools, and good practices in participatory action research; developing methods and practical material that focus on the teaching of minority and indigenous languages in Europe and beyond.

The ENGHUM participants actively worked towards sharing their research results in wider society through a series of media appearances, reaching an approximate audience of over 4.5 million. Communication and dissemination activities embraced two physical and two virtual exhibitions, many press releases and numerous publications in traditional, digital and social media. The project has been described as a ""success story"" of the European Commission It has also contributed to the increased visibility and impact of the humanities in Poland and in Europe.
The ENGHUM project has developed decolonizing and participatory strategies of research and collaboration with minority/indigenous communities that have significantly expanded and refined previous endeavors and practices. The project has made it possible to bridge significant gaps in current research in the humanities, including its relatively limited impact on the broader society, the lack of connection between research and its practical applications, restricted access to generated knowledge and the division between linguistic and cultural studies. The ENGHUM responded to these challenges by developing and testing solutions for collaboration and knowledge-transfer gaps between academics, members of local communities/ethnic minorities and non-academic organizations. The project has shown the potential both of networking between academic and non-academic partners and of creating ‘communities of practice’ for efficient language revitalization and heritage management activities. This way of working directly impacts the empowerment of Indigenous researchers and community members, and the decolonization of the academy by recognizing the value of community-based and community-driven research. It demonstrates that this kind of collaboration and empowerment carries the potential for abolishing inequalities in researcher-participant relations because it creates spaces where Indigenous people assume greater control over their role in research endeavors and their relationships with external scholars.

In terms of documenting language and creating opportunities for revitalization, ENGHUM has contributed to the awareness that collaborative, engaged research empowers native speakers, preparing them to perform different roles inside and outside their communities, and situates them as agents of the research process, free to pursue Indigenous ways of generating knowledge. The project has successfully mobilized documentary materials for teaching, revitalization activities and community-oriented programs and developed teaching curricula and methodologies for minority/endangered languages. It has successfully disseminated knowledge about linguistic diversity and contributed to more positive attitudes in the broader society toward endangered languages and the preservation of multicultural and multilingual heritage. ENGHUM has also fostered the dissemination of knowledge about economic opportunities linked to linguistic-cultural heritage by providing useful, practical solutions and know-how to scholars, students, educators and community members. By constructing bridges between the academy, ethnic/linguistic minority communities, language activists and NGOs, ENGHUM paves the way for other innovative, socially engaged and collaborative projects in its participating institutions and communities and beyond.