LINGUIST List 23.3196
Wed Jul 25 2012
Review: Applied Ling.; Lang. Acquisition; Sociolinguistics: Higgins (2011)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
Damian Rivers <damian.rivers
Identity Formation in Globalizing Contexts
E-mail this message to a friend
Discuss this message
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-548.html
EDITOR: Christina HigginsTITLE: Identity Formation in Globalizing ContextsSUBTITLE: Language Learning in the New MillenniumSERIES TITLE: Language and Social Processes Vol. 1PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2011
Damian J. Rivers, Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University, Japan
SUMMARYThrough qualitative methodologies including narrative analysis, case studies,and ethnographic research, this 12-chapter edited volume investigates themultitude of ways that globalization in the new millennium influences languagelearning, transnational living, and the construction of dynamic identities. Froma theoretical standpoint, the book explores how global flows of people, ideas,and technology, and interconnected global 'scapes' continually constructing newidentity choices for language learners, and how these identity optionssubsequently impact upon language learning, language teaching and language useacross a number of micro identity zones located within macro-level contexts suchas Canada, England, France, Hong Kong, Tanzania, and the United States. As thepreface indicates "across the volume, the authors explore how language learnersnegotiate their sense of self as they experience these new contexts and how theyintegrate these experiences with their previous subjectivities" (p. ix). Thefollowing summarization of each chapter will use this as a point of orientation.
Chapter 1 [The formation of L2 selves in a globalizing world] by ChristinaHiggins addresses an environment characterized by mobility and mobile resourcesas opposed to fixed categories and monolithic terms such as 'native' and'non-native' speaker. Identifying the specific strand of 'new millenniumglobalization' as being most appropriate for this task, Higgins asserts that"[r]ather than linking identity tightly with clear-cut nationalities,ethnicities, or cultures, new millennium globalization requires us to take adeeper look at how identity is formed in relation to mobility and thetransgression of modernist boundaries" (p. 2). The chapter highlights some ofthe most significant viewpoints from which to explore this post-modernistposition. Higgins draws upon various 'scapes' and discusses how the formation ofnew hybrid identities stimulated by the transcultural flow of ideas, images,people, money, and information does not necessarily erase or remove formertraditional ones. These sites of multiple tensions are further explored inrelation to language learner identity with particular attention given tomotivation and possible L2 selves, communities of practice, andpost-structuralist images of the self. The final part of the chapter isdedicated to examining the consequences of the aforementioned global flows andshifting scapes of identity formation. Higgins stimulates the appetite of thereader by explaining the volume's intentional pull away from a dominant focus onEnglish as the L2 of choice: "[w]hile much research on globalization in appliedlinguistics focuses narrowly on English, this volume's inclusion of languagesother than English seeks to demonstrate that global forces are not limited tothe world's most spoken language", further adding that "new millenniumidentities are not strictly tied to English" (p. 17).
PART I: Forming identities within (trans)national ethnoscapesChapter 2 ["I'm two pieces inside of me": Negotiating belonging throughnarratives of linguistic and ethnic hybridity] by Matthew T. Prior focuses onthe notion of belonging through the narratives of a male working-classCambodian-Vietnamese border crosser (Etienne) who immigrated to Canada in themid-1980s. In addition to the utilization of narrative as a form of inquiry,Prior highlights how narrative inquiry also represents a discursive spacetranscending the restrictions of space and time. Although the data within thischapter derives mostly from a corpus of 40-hours of interview data, Prior'sactual interviews with Etienne spanned an impressive period of five years thusallowing for a level of detail, engagement, and participant understanding rarelyfound within other projects. The data is presented and analyzed across eightthematic sections including: possibilities for participation and belonging;linguistic and ethnic unbelonging; the disempowered and empowered self; andtransformation and self-realization. Each section is furnished with rich andinsightful data showcasing the spectrum of human emotion and identitydevelopment, thus giving the reader opportunity to see Etienne as amultidimensional individual affected by the past and encouraged by the future.Prior draws the chapter to a close by suggesting that by "attending to thedynamic sense-making processes by which people organize and reflect upon theirhybrid lives we may gain a better understanding of various trajectories oflanguage use, social participation, and identity construction" (p. 46). In thebroader context of this volume this conclusion represents excellent advice andcloses out an interesting and well-written chapter.
Chapter 3 [Integration through the accueil program: Language and belonging amongnewcomer adolescents in Quebec] by Dawn Allen explores policies and programsaimed at the integration of school-age immigrants and minorities in Quebec whichpermit a closer look "at the tensions inherent in Quebec's commitment to theembracing of diversity (inclusiveness) and the promotion of the distinct societyidentity (exclusiveness)" (p. 49). Allen provides a thorough account of the mostsignificant policy issues surrounding the use of French and English withinQuebec and these descriptions are helpful for those readers not overly familiarwith this particular context. In considering the complexity of individualidentity construction, Allen explores how "an identity-centered rather thanlanguage-centered approach to integration might address some of the challengesto integration in Quebec's schools" (p. 53). The 18 participants in the study,five of whom are focused upon in this chapter, were tracked over a 15-monthperiod by using ethnographic methodology including a variety of data collectiontechniques. It was interesting to note that the participants were given theoption of using English, French and/or Spanish during interviews. The dataanalysis, whilst centered on the discourse of narrative identity constructionalso utilizes what Allen refers to as "naming practices" (p. 54) that are usedin the process of categorization. The narrative data is compelling anddemonstrates student resistance to 'official naming practices' through the useof 'individual name claiming techniques' as part of their self-driven identityconstruction. In drawing attention to the distinction between host languagelearner participation and acquisition, Allen concludes by stating that whenacquisition rather than participation becomes the primary focus of newcomerintegration "newcomers can end up feeling alienated and excluded not only fromthe host community but from the host language itself" (p.70).
Chapter 4 [Performing "national" practices: Identity and hybridity in immigrantyouths' communication] by Jane Zuengler is conceptually positioned amongst thosepost-structuralist and post-modern studies that view language as a transitiveconcept existing beyond "conceptual dichotomies and boundaries" (p. 73). Thenotion of 'third space' as an ethnographic performance is advocated asunderpinning the two individual studies documented. The actual data, collectedbetween 1996-2000 (pre 9/11), derives from student participation in the L2(English) performance of two overtly national practices. The first performanceis the 'American Pledge of Allegiance'. Zuengler begins by detailing thebackground and controversy surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance and highlightsthe variability in policy across and within different parts of America. Theschool policy in the context where the data was collected is then described andvarious enactments or performances of the Pledge of Allegiance are presented,often accompanied by photographs taken within the classroom whilst the studentsand teacher were standing. The author notes that although the studentparticipants "may have been participating in the Pledge…they used language andbody language in hybrid ways to reshape and re-signify the nationalist discourseof the Pledge" (p. 77). The chapter also reveals how different teachers dealwith the issue of the Pledge of Allegiance within the classroom and the varioustensions it creates. The second performance concerns the 'American Girl' seriesof dolls and takes place at an afterschool center. Here, patriotic symbols andslogans are partnered by a group of elementary school girls with a selection ofhistorical 'American Girl' character dolls that were given to them as gifts. Inthis context, Zuengler explores the construction of patriotic discoursesurrounding the dolls and makes numerous links to the creation of third spacesconcluding that "[t]he conception of Third Space makes us start where we shouldin our research, with the hybridity, complexity, and the conflicts ofunderstanding immigrant youths' behavior" (p. 95).
Chapter 5 [L1 and L2 reading practices in the lives of Latina immigrant womenstudying English: School literacies, home literacies, and literacies thatconstruct identities] by Julia Menard-Warwick presents an ethnographic studyconcentrating on literacies across context (home and school), and literaciesthat construct identities with a particular focus on the L1 and L2 readingpractices in the lives of Latina immigrant women studying English in California.What is notable about the participants in this study is that the six women didnot desire to become part of another cultural community after immigration,rather their study efforts were intended to assist them participate moreactively within their own immigrant community as bilinguals. The findings arepresented firstly through a focus on participant experiences of schooling inLatin America, then through the everyday literacy challenges and requirements ofthe participants in the United States, and finally with reference to theliteracy of identification that Menard-Warwick observes "appeared to be confinedto L1 reading outside of the school context" (p. 111). Aspects of readingcomprehension and dictation are given specific attention with Menard-Warwickhighlighting how in both types of exercise, "the application of texts topersonal experience that participants mentioned in interviews happened onlyrarely with L2 texts in the classroom, and did not appear to be a key goal ofliteracy instruction in this context" (p. 114). The discussion section reflectsupon the findings and emphasizes that for many adult ESL learners attendingclass concerns motives such as "finding a better job, supporting their childrenacademically, or continuing their own education" (p. 117). In short,Menard-Warwick argues that teachers should explore student perceptions of pastschooling experiences including in and out of school literacy practices in orderto identify suitable L2 texts for use in post-immigration communities.
PART II: Identifying with third spaces among ideoscapesChapter 6 [Mutuality, engagement, and agency: Negotiating identity on staysabroad] by Jane Jackson uses data from a single case-study participant referredto as Elsa and begins by highlighting the popularity and appeal for universitystudents around the globe to experience firsthand life within another culturaland linguistic environment. Attention is also drawn to the common academicbelief that such experiences will contribute positively to cultural andlinguistic development or intercultural sensitivity and socio-pragmaticawareness. Jackson counters that this is not always the case as "a range ofinternal and external factors can result in differing outcomes" (p. 127).Jackson introduces the contribution and utilization of theories deriving fromPierre Bourdieu before moving on to discuss post-structuralist notions ofidentity, investment and imagination in L2 learning. It is within this sectionthat the notion of third spaces, reoccurring throughout the volume, is addressedand Jackson suggests that "[o]n stays abroad, this 'third place' may emerge asL2 sojourners try to make sense of intercultural encounters" (p. 130). Thenotions of communities of practice and situated L2 learning are then presentedwith reference, amongst other issues, to conceptualizations of empowerment anddisempowerment through participation and degrees of inclusivity. The case-studyparticipant (from Hong Kong) had an advanced level in English and took part in afaculty-led five-week sojourn to England. The qualitative data presented iscomprehensive and gives an in depth account of Elsa's pre-departure aims andconcerns, the actual sojourn, and the post-sojourn return to Hong Kong. Jacksonconcludes that in order to "enhance the learning of student sojourners, adequatelinguistic and (inter) cultural preparation must include attention to strategiesthat can help them make sense of a new environment and cope with the natural upsand downs of intercultural adjustment" (p. 145). Through the provision of suchpractical, yet theoretically grounded, advice this chapter serves as anexcellent blueprint for anyone planning to conduct or supervise a sojournexperience into another cultural and/or linguistic environment.
Chapter 7 [National identity and language learning abroad: American students inthe post 9/11 era] by Celeste Kinginger begins with two extracts taken from thejournals of two American undergraduate students sojourning in France during 2003at which time anti-American sentiment was rampant and at the forefront of Frenchsociocultural life. The two extracts, one in which the student (Brianna) seeksstatus as a victim, and the other in which the student (Olivia) adopts a stronganti-French position are interpreted as example of students "recoil[ing] intonational superiority -- a tactic commonly documented in the qualitativeresearch on American students abroad" (p. 148). The rationale for the chapter isexplained as concerning the need for a closer look at the process in whichAmerican students resort to affirming fixed national identities rather thanengaging with "opportunities for intercultural learning and foreign languagedevelopment" (p. 148). After an examination of some of the greatestsociopolitical challenges facing the issue of American students abroad,Kinginger introduces the details of the current study which is grounded in threenotions drawn from sociocultural theory (i.e. human activity is mediated, highermental functions can be understood through history, and participants areintentional human agents). The study participants were 24 French language minorsor majors who travelled unsupervised to France as means of examining "the fulldiversity of the study abroad experience as locally instantiated" (p. 154). Datawere collected through interviews and language learning journals. In analyzingnarrative data in relation to national identity, the chapter draws theoreticallinks from the socioculturally mediated process of collective remembering aswell as the use of narrative toolkits which include "specific narratives andnarrative templates that differ from one culture to another but that are notreadily available to consciousness" (p. 156). Kinginger concludes by suggestingthat American students abroad "would be well served by efforts to encourage ananalytic rather than judgmental approach to the societies where they study, andto reframe their goals in terms of intercultural and symbolic competence" (p.166). Like the previous chapter, the practical implications of this chapter forfuture study abroad programs involving American students are far-reaching andshould not underestimated.
Chapter 8 ["You're a real Swahili!": Western women's resistance to identityslippage in Tanzania] by Christina Higgins utilizes narrative analysis topinpoint the issue of resistance to 'identity slippage' in exploring theidentity construction of three L2 Swahili speaking expatriate Western women whowere long-term residents of Tanzania. Higgins explains how she was "interestedin understanding how these women positioned themselves and other in theirstories, and whether these positionings included subject positions of cultural'insider' and 'outside', as well as other relevant subject positions of culturalhybrid, intercultural, or transnational identities" (p. 169). After a detaileddescription of the literature concerning expatriate identities with specificattention given to Tanzania, the three participants are profiled ahead of thedata presentation and analysis. The narrative passages presented are substantialand Higgins provides a thorough analysis across a number of sub-sectionsaddressing issues such as the desire and ability to identity slip, the limits ofdeveloping a Swahili self, narratives about cross-cultural interactional styles,power and gender as barriers in identity slippage, and shared positionalities inan intercultural third space. Higgins concludes that despite the fact that theTanzanian context offered the three women numerous opportunities to adapt to across-culturally appropriate Swahili L2 self the women "did not take theseopportunities up because of a number of obstacles stemming from theirwestern-identified selves and from their high degree of intercultural awarenessand worldliness" (p. 189). Several important implications for identityconstruction as part of intercultural adventure are outlined with particularreference to those people who do not possess a fixed concept of home.
PART III: Constructing identities in mediascapesChapter 9 [Doing-Hip-Hop in the transformation of youth identities: Socialclass, habitus, and cultural capital] by Angel Lin and Evelyn Man draws uponsocial class and the Bourdieusian concepts of habitus and cultural capital in aproject "aimed to introduce Hong Kong students to a prestigious new Englishspeaker identity, the young emcee, by creating an alternative andextracurricular program based on hip hop" (p. 202). The justifications given forthe specific focus on English Language Teaching (ELT) Rap are persuasive withthe authors highlighting the importance of stress-timed rhythm in English lyricsand the fact that the majority of students spoke Cantonese (a syllable-timedlanguage) as their L1. Links are also made to benefits that included raisingphonological awareness and phonetic skills in addition to the development ofself-confidence in the L2 of the 68 high-school participants. The stagessurrounding the implementation of the program and the methodology employed arethoroughly described and detailed. The actual program featured a number ofstructured workshops in which local hip-hop artists were invited to participateas instructors. The strong emphasis on the use of hip-hop and rap as an art formis evident and the students were also exposed to a local break dance artist whoserved as a dance coordinator. The final student production in which 38 of thestudents performed was viewed by an audience of over 800 students and parents.This is indicative of the sheer scale of this creative undertaking. The datacollected from the students is informative and reflects positively on the ELTRap project, Lin and Man note that "[u]pon completion of this pilot project, 10students of the school were invited to perform their ELT Rap songs at theEnglish Festival 2007 kick-off ceremony (p. 217). This kind of positive knock-oneffect from a project focused on English language learning and empoweringidentities is surely rare and makes for fascinating reading. This chapter issignificant in that it stretches the boundaries of teacher-researcherimagination and invites them to consider what other creative possibilitiesreside within EFL environments given adequate support and a team of dedicatedteacher-researchers.
Chapter 10 [When life is off da hook: Hip-hop identity and identification, BESL,and the pedagogy of pleasure] by Awad Ibrahim continues the musical theme anddraws upon critical ethnographic data collected in 1996, and smaller scalefollow up data in 2007. As part of the introduction, Ibrahim states that thechapter deals with how the act of English language learning "is turned into asymbolic act of identity negotiation and translation, and act which forms andsimultaneously performs a subject formation project where Blackness is central"(p. 221). The chapter navigates the above through centralizing explorations ofrace and culture within the language learning experience underpinned by twotheoretical premises. The first premise is that French-speaking immigrants andAfrican refugees (aged 11-20) attending an urban Franco-Ontarian high-school inCanada learn more outside of the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroomthan they do within it. The second premise is that the various social identitiesof these youths (e.g. gender, sexual, and racial) make up the core foundationsof their ESL learning efforts. Ibrahim provides a thorough overview of theresearch context, the participants, and the data presented is analyzedsufficiently highlighting the impact of the macro on the micro. In theconcluding part of the chapter the author summarizes that "Hip-Hop wasidentified as an influential site of identification in African students'processes of becoming Black, which in turn affected what and how they learned"(p. 236). The final few lines of the chapter are particularly imaginative andencapsulate the principles of critical pedagogy with the urban linguisticexpressions of sociocultural identity demonstrated by the participants in thischapter.
Chapter 11 [Identity theft or revealing one's true self?: The media andconstruction of identity in Japanese as a foreign language] by Yumiko Oharabegins by noting the shift behind many students' motivations for studyingJapanese. During the 1980s many students were attracted to Japanese as alanguage of international business, but more recently, Japanese is seen asgranting access to an appealing world of animation, videogames and costume play.This process has paralleled an increase in the global accessibility of Japaneseculture through various forms of mainstream media. Ohara states that thischapter is an "attempt to explore the effects of media exposure on identityconstruction" by examining "the identity perceptions and language usage ofbeginning learners of Japanese as a foreign language (JFL)" (p. 239) at aHawaiian university. Overall 61 students participated in the project and datawas collected through a questionnaire, skit presentations, focus-groupinterviews, and informal unstructured conversations with students who frequentlywatched Japanese animation. The data are revealing and the multiple methods usedare effective in highlighting how the participants' identities were largelyself-constructed through exposure to various forms of media. In the conclusion,Ohara makes a particularly salient point which other JFL teachers might wish toconsider "[a]ny teacher who, for example, would tell a learner such a Deborahthat she should not use yaaadaa [an interjection generally meaning 'not achance' or 'no way'] because it was too casual…would risk driving those studentsaway from being interested in the class and possibly discourage them frompursuing the language" (p. 255).
Chapter 12 [Identity and interaction in internet-mediated contexts] by Steven L.Thorne and Rebecca Black analyzes revisit and extend their previous work with afocus on the "conditions and affordances that L2 participants mobilize in newmedia contexts" (p. 258). With reference to Salman Rushdie's fictional character'Akbar the Great', Thorne and Black consider the varied qualities of identityand how certain individuals are able to "maintain a superordinate view of theself, of an 'I' that seems to have transportability across languages andcontexts" (p. 258). Thorne and Black survey literature addressing manifestationsof identity through digital environments covering the development of newliteracy practices and the identification of three dynamics which occur duringinternet-mediated interaction "1) indexical linkages to macro-levelcategories…2) functionally defined subject positions...and 3) fluid shifts inlanguage choice, stance, and style" (p. 259). The authors share a number ofvaried case studies taken from a diverse range of computer-mediated contextssuch as fan fictions communities, online games, and open internet discussion /forum type platforms. As part of their conclusion the authors contend that inall of the examples given in the chapter "processes of language socializationcombined with implicit and explicit feedback systems appear to support theacquisition of linguistic forms, communicative strategies, and resources forperforming relevant social identities" (p. 275). The final paragraph of thechapter also makes clear that this is a fast developing research field with manynew innovations expanding the possibilities for dynamic interactions throughcomputer-mediated communication. The possibilities for the study of identitywithin these innovations and the implications created by transcending betweenphysical and digital realities are extensive.
The Epilogue [Hybridizing scapes and the production of new identities] byChristina Higgins closes with an inclusive discussion, rightly beginning byidentifying that the current volume continues a tradition within appliedlinguistics of using theories developed with parallel fields to explain findingsat the macro level of interpretation. However, the author also draws attentionto the position that "the work presented in this volume also seeks to contributean empirical basis to research on identity in applied linguistics as it relatesto new millennium globalization" (p. 279). Further marking the volume'scontribution to applied linguistics, Higgins highlights the notions oftranslocal and transcultural context, and stresses that attention must be givento what it is that resides beneath and around language learning and language usewhich permits the development of new identities.
EVALUATIONRelated to the aim outlined in the preface, all the chapters clearly demonstrate"when ideoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, ethnoscapes, and mediascapesintersect and collide, the result is that new contexts for identity formationare born" (p. 279). The coherence of the volume and the manner in which thechapters are thematically divided and structured is effective. Although allchapters were fundamentally successful some chapters were more accessible andstimulating than others. For example, as the stand out chapter, chapter 9 wasimmensely engaging and the project documented was impressive on a number oflevels - in the size of the undertaking, the number of diverse people involved,and the rewarding outcomes for the student performers. However, the range ofdiversity offered in terms of context, language focus, and data presentationensured that even in those chapters that were more challenging to connect with,the reader is still able to gather a sense of learning something new. In makingsuch comments the subjectivity of my judgment is acknowledged which may or maynot do justice to the actual quality of the data shared within this detailededited volume.
One criticism that can be more objectively substantiated concerns the'freshness' of the data. Many of the chapters were reliant upon data fromprevious projects or projects undertaken around or before the turn of thecentury despite the volume developing from a 2007 conference organized by theeditor. In many ways this restricted the range of possibility in exploringlanguage learning and identity formation in the 'new millennium' (of which weare now in the second decade). Despite not wanting to single out any particularchapter, this reliance on such data led to a strong sense of 'wanting more' andwas most apparent in Chapter 4. Whilst fascinating and revealing, this chapterwas largely based on pre-9/11 data. In light of the chapter's focus onperforming national practices (e.g. the American Pledge of Allegiance) andinteractions with concepts such as patriotism and immigration, the inclusion ofdata gathered within the much changed post-9/11 world would seem vital if onewere to aiming toward making an up-to-date contribution consistent with theinnovative theme of the volume as advocated by the editor.
The volume should be practically useful and theoretically appealing toresearchers across a variety of fields who are interested in exploring andgaining insight into the multitude of ways in which language learning andidentity developments, performances, and evaluations take place. Whilst it mightbe easy to label this volume as only appealing to those directly interested inlanguage learner identity this would be a gross underestimation of itssignificance. As such, I recommend this volume to all teacher-researchers,particularly those directly involved in language learning environments and whoexperience daily interactions with students. I also see the book as havingconsiderable potential to illustrate and provide practical examples of the widerange of qualitative methodologies available to researchers in the field. Inthis respect, graduate students who wish to utilize qualitative methodologies intheir own research would gain from reading it. In terms of the potential forfuture research that the book opens up, a revised version based upon the sametheoretical and conceptual principles but with data collected in the post-2010era (i.e. the second decade of the 'new' millennium) and across additionalcontexts would be an exciting companion to the current volume. I sincerely hopethat the editor is already considering such a project.
ABOUT THE REVIEWERDamian J. Rivers is an associate professor at Osaka University in theEnglish Department, Graduate School of Language and Culture and holds a PhDin Applied Linguistics / Sociolinguistics from the University of Leicester,England. His main research interests concern the management of multipleidentities in relation to otherness, the impact of national identities upona variety of foreign language education processes, critical issues inintercultural communication, and social processes underpinning intergroupstereotypes. He is co-editor of the forthcoming publications --'Native-Speakerism in Foreign Language Education: Intergroup Dynamics inJapan' (Multilingual Matters) and 'Social Identities and Multiple Selves inForeign Language Education' (Continuum).
Page Updated: 25-Jul-2012