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Cornelia F. Bock

PhD Researcher, University of Hamburg

After finishing the BA “African Languages and Cultures” (2012) and the MA “General Linguistics” (2014) at the Universität Hamburg, I worked for the interdisciplinary project “Offensive Sprachwissenschaft” (2015-2018), in which seminars for MA students from different linguistic departments were developed and conducted, focusing on institutional multilingualism. After the end of the project, I started working for the Hamburg-based company LangTec, which specialises in Computational Linguistics and Language Technology.

Besides this, I am working on my doctoral thesis focusing on identity work in a German-African church service in Hamburg, Germany, and looking at the complexity and interdependence of language, religion and identity from a linguistic perspective.

Seminar One Provocation:  Worshipping with “the Other”

Abstract: ETHER questions of encountering “the Other” are at the centre of my research, which focuses on identity formation in a German-African church service in Hamburg, Germany. The congregation’s composition entails differences in ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious background as people from several West African countries, Germans and others come together to worship. The aim of the service is to facilitate intercultural exchange and to create a sense of community, a new identity shared by both Africans and Germans. The people involved in it are conscious about the fact “[…] that sharing the same space is a necessary but insufficient condition for [meaningful engagement with difference] to occur” (ETHER call). My research asks how do the pastors experience the various differences, and which linguistic and other practices can be identified to be aimed at bringing all parishioners together?   

The Digital Provocation contribution will give examples from the service’s structural, content-related and linguistic levels that acknowledge the various identities involved and attempt to create new experiences for all. The data corpus consists of field notes, documentation of the linguistic landscape, questionnaires, interviews with pastors and audio and video recordings of the bilingual sermons. While the latter are the most obvious place for negotiating identities and dealing with differences by talking about theological conflicts, issues of integration and identity as well as prejudices and discrimination, a close analysis of the service’s structure and, for instance, the use of space illustrates the underlying idea of creating a shared identity based on a new tradition of worship.