Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stuff I've Been Reading

This week, I started a new regime of reading to (I hope) work on my academic chops. Here's what I read. Comments are welcome, though this collection of readings is a bit esoteric.

Shi-xu (2006). Editorial: Researching Multicultural Discourses. Journal of Multicultural Discourses. 1(1): 1-5

The Journal of Multicultural Discourses is an exciting (if at times theoretically impenetrable by a novice like myself) journal based at Zhejiang University, just the next town East of where I live. This editorial sets the research agenda for the journal, which seeks to sort of "liberate" discourse studies* from its Eurocentric biases. I'm most interested in Shi-xu's desire to "reflect upon and re-create discourses in order to restore and elevate humanity" as well as to "engage in egalitarian intercultural communication, critique, and cooperation in discourse scholarships." Im unfamiliar with a lot of the terminology used in this editorial, but intrigued, so I'm going to poke around in this journal's archives and try to find an article that advances the mission laid out here.

(*NB: not discourse analysis in a sociolinguistic sense; this is more like Cultural Studies)

Kanno, Y., & Norton, B. (2003). Imagined communities and educational possibilities: Introduction. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2(4), 241-249.

This intro to a special issue of JLIE explains the current use of the theory of imagined communities in language learning research. These are communities which exist only in the minds of their members -- for example, nations. Kanno and Norton argue that "learners' affiliations with imagined communities might affect heir learning trajectories," and that these communities can include potential future relationships (like professional communities which people hope to join).

I really like the direction that Kanno and Norton take their research, because it sheds some light on an often-neglected aspect of language learning: the hopes and goals of the learners. However, I think we do people a disservice when we call these communities "imagined." Regardless of positive connotations (imagination, creativity, etc), the term has the effect of minimizing the potential or actual reality of an individual's self-perceived identity or group membership. For example, Norton talks about one ESL learner's "imagined professional community" when in fact the woman had already built a professional identity as a teacher in Poland. Wasn't she, in some real (un-imaginary) sense, a teacher, a member of that professional community?

Kanno, Y. (2003). Imagined Communities, School Visions, and the Education of Bilingual Students in Japan. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2(4), 285-300

Kanno looks at four different bilingual education programs in Japan, each of which, she argues, "imagines" a unique (possible) future community affiliation for its students. This article feels practical, which isn't always true of this kind of research. I learned a lot about bilingual education in Japan, and I think she offers some valuable insights about the effect an institution can have on its students.

Holliday, A. (2005). How is it possible to write? Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(4), 304-309.

Canagarajah, S. (2005). Rhetoricizing reflexivity. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(4), 309-315.

Holliday's work on "small cultures" in ELT research was influential to me during my time at HSU, and I enjoyed this short essay on using reflexivity to understand and negotiate a researcher's position as a priviledged, "Western" academic studying and working with those poor, helpless Others we so often do in this profession. Holliday talks about the necessity of understanding that "Center" scholars cannot claim to speak for the (marginalized/othered) people they work with, but instead can claim their research as their own narratives and learn something about the relationship between themselves and their research and "subjects."

Canagarajah warns against the temptation and possibility of researcher navel-gazing in "postmodern"/reflexive applied lingustics research by showing how an article written with a fervently pomo perspective (and a raving capacity for neologisms) actually does very little to advance the progressive concerns of critical qualitative research, whereas an article written in a modernist/post-positivist vein can, using traditional academic language, actually reveal some ("critical") truths about the researcher-researched relationship.

1 comment:

Gaia said...

How are you doing? I think there is a lot to read here. Nowadays I am doing some research on group identity. I will learn much from this blog. Thank you for visiting my place. Keep in touch!