Search type

Social Anthropology

Guilherme Fians

Thesis title

Of Revolutionaries and Geeks: Mediation, Space and Time among Esperanto Speakers

Project description

My doctoral research focused on how Esperanto speakers engage with this language and with the political programme linked to it in their everyday lives.

Esperanto is a constructed, international auxiliary language whose fundamentals were created in late-nineteenth-century Russian Empire. Nowadays, 130 years after its creation, some surveys consider that it counts on around two million speakers worldwide. It was originally designed to be a peace-oriented, nationalism-free and neutral language that would not replace national languages, being used mostly for international communication. Alternatively supported by intellectuals and by left-wing activists in the past, Esperanto has currently attracted the interest of young people through online courses and mobile phone apps. By being more than a language, it has developed a widespread, non-geographically bounded speech community, a language-based social movement, and a set of cosmopolitan dispositions and sociabilities.

My study was based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork and archival research carried out among Esperanto speakers in France – the country in which Esperanto gained momentum in its early days. My participant observation was concentrated in Paris, where larger Esperanto associations and networks are located, but was not limited to this city, as I also conducted fieldwork and interviews in international Esperanto meetings in Slovakia, Germany and South Korea. My research mapped out the ways Esperanto speakers relate to this language, looking at these speakers’ conceptions and practices regarding internationalism, fairer and more egalitarian communication, language use and politics, mobilities and circulation, hopes for the future, and activism. I also looked at how people from different age groups and generations regard this language as a proxy for international sociabilities and political activism, questioning the ephemeral materialisations of the Esperanto community and exploring how a speech community that cannot rely on intergenerational transmission can be rendered stable.

Research interests

  • Anthropological theory
  • Nationalism, antinationalism, cosmopolitanism, globalisation
  • Anthropology of travelling, circulation and mobilities
  • Interlinguistics, politics of language and language planning
  • Political anthropology
  • Social movements and political participation
  • Time and temporality
  • Children, childhood and youth


  • 2015-2019: PhD in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
  • 2013-2015: MA in Social Anthropology, Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 2009-2013: BA in Social Sciences, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Selected peer-reviewed publications

  • Forthcoming. Mind the age gap: Exploring intergenerational transmission and communication technologies among Esperanto speakers in France. To be published at Language Problems and Language Planning.
  • 2018. Die Neutralität einer politischen Partei: Sprachpolitik und Aktivismus für Esperanto in den Wahlen zum Europäischen Parlament [The neutrality of a political party: Language policies and activism for Esperanto in the European Parliamentary elections]. Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Interlinguistik 2018, 11-33.
  • 2017. O Esperanto Além da Língua [Esperanto Beyond the Language]. Porto Velho: Temática Editora. 287p.
  • 2015. Por uma antropologia de varanda reversa: Etnografando um encontro entre índios e crianças em uma escola no Rio de Janeiro [For a reverse armchair anthropology: An ethnography of an encounter of indigenous people and children in a school in Rio de Janeiro]. Cadernos de Campo 24, 202-222.
  • 2015. Sobre contar e ouvir verdades e mentirinhas: Considerações sobre narrativas a partir de livros infantis e brincadeiras em uma sala de aula [On telling and listening to truths and make-believes: Considerations on narratives from children’s books and plays in a classroom]. Boitatá 20, 68-88.
  • 2015. Entre crianças, personagens e monstros: Uma etnografia de brincadeiras infantis [Among children, cartoon characters and monsters: An ethnography of children's play]. Rio de Janeiro: Ponteio Edições. 184p.
  • 2013. An Anthropology beyond Culture and Society: Interview with Christina Toren. Revista Habitus 11:1, 178-189.
  • 2012. Cidadãos do mundo: Uma discussão sobre o nacional e o internacional no Esperanto [Citizens of the world: A debate on national and international features of Esperanto]. Revista Habitus 10:1, 50-63.

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