LINGUIST List 15.1718

Sat Jun 5 2004

Review: Sociolinguistics: Phipps & Guilherme (2004)

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  1. Laura Callahan, Critical Pedagogy

Message 1: Critical Pedagogy

Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 23:26:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: Laura Callahan <>
Subject: Critical Pedagogy

Phipps, Alison and Manuela Guilherme, ed. (2004) Critical Pedagogy:
Political Approaches to Language and Intercultural Communication.
Multilingual Matters, Languages for Intercultural Communication and
Education 8.

Announced at

Laura Callahan, City College of the City University of New York

This volume consists of an introduction and four papers. The papers
are preceded by an abstract given in English plus a
language-other-than- English: two in Spanish, one in Portuguese, and
one in Korean. References appear separately at the end of each paper.


Introduction: Why Languages and Intercultural Communication are Never
Just Neutral. Alison Phipps and Manuela Guilherme.

This introduction departs from the model common to edited volumes, in
which a summary is given of each paper that follows. Instead, Phipps
and Guilherme concentrate on an exposition of the essence of critical
pedagogy and its relevance to the disciplines of language teaching and
intercultural communication. What distinguishes critical pedagogy from
just pedagogy is an insistence on questioning the status quo. An
overriding theme is the refusal to conform to practices associated
with business-as-usual. The editors state: ''It is our firm conviction
that the project of pedagogy in languages and intercultural
communication is not a cynical functionalist project that manufactures
intercultural and linguistic competences like biscuits, and creates
docile bodies fit to serve a machine of global capitalism''
(p. 2). Seven concepts from critical pedagogy considered most
applicable to the work of language/culture educators are detailed:
reflection, dissent, difference, dialogue, empowerment, action, and
hope. Phipps and Guilherme call attention to how the papers contained
in this volume incorporate these concepts. They emphasize that
scholarship rooted in critical pedagogy takes its form from the public
expression of pain, grief, and anger, as well as the desire and
responsibility felt by the authors to change existing conditions.

Betraying the Intellectual Tradition: Public Intellectuals and the 
Crisis of Youth. Henry A. Giroux.

Giroux begins with Pierre Bourdieu's (2000) call for committed
scholarship, noting the distinction between true intervention and
discourses that are limited to academia or ''celebrity-like, public-
relations posturing'' (p. 8). In the context of neoliberalism and its
consequences for the world's youth, Giroux develops Bourdieu's
position on the academic's responsibility to be a public
intellectual. Giroux warns that the social contract under which adults
used to assume responsibility for children and their future has been
replaced by a view of young people as economically unviable at best
(p. 11), and a menace to society at worst (p. 10). As evidence of a
war against youth (p. 8), he cites diverse factors that have the
common result of a disproportionate impact on children, for example:
child labor and prostitution, the effects of U.S. sanctions against
Iraq, military conflicts across the globe for which the U.S. is the
major arms supplier, and domestic repression of young people's civil
rights. The essay concludes with a section entitled ''The
Responsibility of Intellectuals'', in which Giroux urges pedagogues to
prepare youth to be agents of ''civic action and democratic change''
(p. 20). Foremost among the obstacles he sees are ''dominant
intellectual traditions that divorce academic life from politics''
(p. 20), and the ''increasing corporatisation of university life''
(p. 17).

Academic Literacy in Post-colonial Times: Hegemonic Norms and
Transcultural Possibilities. Joan Turner.

Turner focuses on the standards of academic literacy in English and
their implications for second language writers and writers who are
inexperienced in academic registers. Such writers may be unable to
write without drawing attention to their use of language. This in turn
draws negative attention to the writers themselves, whose deficiency
in English translates to readers as a ''cognitive deficiency per se''
(p. 25). Turner advocates the explicit teaching of academic literacy
norms, not only to equip writers to participate in the academic
domain, but to give them the tools to discover ways to resist and
replace the existing norms. The style of scientific rationality, which
positions the writer as ''the ideal observer'' (p. 26), is so much a
part of what is expected in academic registers that the price of
nonconformance can range from poor grades to a failure to secure job
interviews, research grants, or publishing contracts. Turner discusses
the case of a doctoral student who hesitates to use a style of writing
that would imply her absolute authority on a topic. This student cites
the Vietnamese feminist writer and film-maker Trinh T. Minh-ha, who
professes a complete disuse of the planned approach to writing that
mandates an introduction, development, and conclusion (in Morelli
1996: 4-5). Turner goes on to examine grammatical problems in the
student's writing. She raises the point that at the higher levels of
education, less attention is paid to formal aspects of students'
language use, because their intellectual capacity is not in question.

Articulating Contact in the Classroom: Towards a Constitutive Focus of
Critical Pedagogy. Keith E. Nainby, John T. Warren and Christopher

Nainby, Warren, and Bollinger examine Paulo Freire's work in critical
education research and suggest modifications based on John Stewart's
constitutive communication theory. Freire's two-world ontology entails
a separation between language--the means of communication--and the
world, or the topic of communication. This contrasts with Stewart's
(1995) communication theory, in which ''human life is fully
constituted in and through communication'' (p. 34). The authors
present three implications of the two-world ontology that have
relevance for critical pedagogy. Their purpose is not to refute
Freire's model, but rather to ''extend and sharpen his critical
focus'' (p. 39). Emblematic of what Nainby et al. find most
problematic is the theory/practice divide (p. 42). This type of
division gives rise to the same type of hierarchy that Freire (2001)
opposed in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which students are separated
from the educational process and ''become a by- product'' (p. 43). The
paper ends with a review of Ira Shor's efforts to implement critical
educational practices in his classroom, a struggle that is documented
in the book When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a
Critical Pedagogy (Shor 1996).

Listen to the Voices of Foreign Language Student Teachers:
Implications for Foreign Language Educators. Rosario Diaz-Greenberg
and Ann Nevin.

Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin's essay is informed by the fields of critical
pedagogy and multicultural education. It begins with a critique of two
approaches to teaching culture in the foreign language classroom: the
Four Fs (Food, Fashion, Festivals and Folklore) versus the Five Cs
(Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities).
The former has been replaced by the latter in the preparation of
language teachers, but often persists in language textbooks. The
authors discuss how the critical pedagogical concept of
conscientization and the multicultural educational concept of
culturally sensitive instructional practices can complement each
other. They then report on a study of three foreign language student
teachers, and the three themes that emerged from the student teachers'
reflections. Finally, an example of the application of dialogue
teaching in a high school Spanish-for-Spanish-speakers program is
described (Diaz-Greenberg 2003). Interview questions formulated and
voted on by the students showed what issues they considered to be most
relevant in their lives. Making such issues part of the curriculum
would support a key notion in critical pedagogy, by which students
become agents and not just objects of the educational process.


This volume should find an eager audience among students and scholars
of critical pedagogy and language teaching. Phipps and Guilherme's
introduction is accessible to both newcomers and readers well-versed
in the discipline. The four papers offer a balance between theory and
practical applications, with the essays by Giroux and Nainby, Warren,
and Bollinger falling into the first category, and those of Turner and
Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin into the second. Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin in
particular offer a useful description of their study's methodology,
which will be of interest to others contemplating a qualitative
analysis of interview data. Giroux's paper highlights what is at stake
in very urgent terms; so much so, that the reader hungers for a
slightly more specific discussion than the one which closes his essay,
in ''The Responsibility of Intellectuals''. Turner's essay raises two
separate issues in academic literacy: nonconformance to the dominant
rhetorical style, and lack of control over grammatical structures in
written English. While both of these can impede the writer from
achieving his or her goals, it is important not to confuse the two. As
is pointed out in Turner's paper, individuals who have attained
success in some area of life may choose not to conform to rhetorical
standards, but the vast majority of writers will not have even this


Bourdieu, Pierre (2000) For a scholarship with commitment. Profession

Diaz-Greenberg, Rosario (2003) The Emergence of Voice in Latino High
School Students. New York: Peter Lang.

Freire, Paulo (2001) Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary
Edition (ed. and trans. M. Bergman Ramos). New York: Continuum.

Morelli, Annamaria (1996) Trinh T. Minh-ha in conversation with
Annamaria Morelli. The undone interval. In I. Chambers and L. Curti
(eds). The Post-colonial Question. Common Skies, Divided Horizons.
London and New York: Routledge.

Shor, Ira (1996) When Students have Power: Negotiating Authority in a
Critical Pedagogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stewart, John (1995) Language as Articulate Contact: Toward a Post-
Semiotic Philosophy of Communication. Albany: SUNY.


Laura Callahan is an assistant professor of Spanish linguistics in the
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the City College,
City University of New York (CUNY), and a research fellow at the
Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society (RISLUS)
at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her current work focuses on language
choice in interethnic communication.
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