From: Jessie Teng <elctengjnus.edu.sg>
Subject: Power and Identity in a Community of Academic Literacy Practice: An ethnographic study of undergraduates in Singapore
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Institution: National University of Singapore
Program: Department of English Language and Literature
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007
Author: Jessie Teng
Dissertation Title: Power and Identity in a Community of Academic Literacy Practice: An ethnographic study of undergraduates in Singapore
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
In the past two decades, ethnographic studies on literacy have become an
important strand of literacy research. In recent years, there have been
calls to focus such literacy studies on pedagogy (Baynham, 2004; Rodgers,
2004) and its material consequences (Luke, 2004) within the postmodern
context of multilingualism and multimodal communicative practices (Street,
2004). As there has been relatively little research done on the impacts of
literacy-as-social-practice on individuals in the tertiary educational
institution context, this study seeks to fill the need for empirical
ethnographic studies by examining the effects of engaging in academic
literacy on undergraduate students in a Singapore university.
Based on Lave and Wenger's (1991) notion of legitimate peripheral
participation and Wenger's communities of practice framework (1998), this
study examines how participation in a community of academic literacy
practices (CALP) impacts the identity construction of three undergraduates:
Steve (a local Chinese male), Vasanthi (a local Indian female) and Ming (a
male transnational scholar from China). The discussion on Steve's
experience focuses on how institutional forces influenced his identity
negotiation in relation to his construction of emotions. In Vasanthi's
case, the issue of different economies of literacies in a multilingual
context and the resulting identity work that took place is looked at.
Finally, Ming's case highlights the impact of transnationalism and literacy
in opening up new options for the construction of new, hybrid identities
The findings of this study have important theoretical and pedagogical
implications. Theoretically, they raise awareness of the impacts of
different economies of literacies and power relations on identity
construction within a community of academic literacy practice, thus
supporting a sociological approach to literacy. Pedagogically, they call
for further consideration of and support for the notion and practice of
critical pedagogy aimed at empowering students to challenge inequities both
within and outside the classroom. Furthermore, suggestions are proposed to
enable learners to participate more fully in their communities of academic
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