LINGUIST List 32.898

Thu Mar 11 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Windle, de Jesus, Bartlett (2020)

Editor for this issue: Billy Dickson <>

Date: 12-Jul-2020
From: Juan Bueno Holle <>
Subject: The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Joel Austin Windle
EDITOR: Dánie de Jesus
EDITOR: Lesley Bartlett
TITLE: The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education
SUBTITLE: Social and Symbolic Boundaries in the Global South
SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language and Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Juan José Bueno Holle, Independent Researcher


The present volume offers a welcome and valuable collection of perspectives from the Global South to the study of language inequality in education. The volume contains ten chapters that draw on the concept of 'borderlands' (Anzaldúa, 1987) to illustrate the realities of schooling as a site of power and negotiation that both reflects and reproduces political, social, cultural, and symbolic inequalities. In particular, the chapters show that it is important for educators, students, theorizers, and policy makers to be critically aware of the complex dynamics at play throughout all levels of education and that post-colonial contexts in the Global South can be especially effective in illustrating.

The book is organized in three sections. The first section concentrates on the ways that communities and groups are subjected to rules of differentiation and exclusion through historical processes embedded in broad social, political, and economic contexts. The second section focuses on cases in which language ideologies play an important role in constructing and maintaining inequalities along national and transnational scales in schools, universities, and communities. Finally, the papers in the third section offer a vision for action with examples of transgression and resistance that challenge oppressive linguistic and social boundaries.

Section 1

The chapters that make up the first section each take a historical approach to identifying boundary shifts. The chapters emphasize how various historical contexts frame racial, linguistic, and educational boundaries that, over time, naturalize and universalize fundamental qualities of human societies. In Chapter 1, ''Across linguistic boundaries: Language as a dimension of power in the colonization of the Brazilian Amazon'', Dennys Silva-Reis and Marcos Bagno relate the complex sociolinguistic history of Brazil and the Brazilian Amazon through several successive stages. A portion of the chapter is devoted to the establishment of European hegemony throughout Brazil and to the expansion and decline of the lingua geral in favor of Portuguese, but the bulk of the chapter focuses on the critical role of interpreters and translation services in the 16th and early 17th centuries. The chapter shows how the colonization of Brazil and of the Brazilian Amazon occurred in stages that were each carried out in qualitatively different ways and through different languages, in the process constructing not only political and territorial boundaries, but profound and shifting cultural and symbolic boundaries as well.

In Chapter 2, ''Navigating hard and soft boundaries: Race and educational inequality at the borderlands'', Joel Windle and Kassandra Muniz provide a critical discussion of theoretical models of language and inequality through the contrast of 'hard' and 'soft' social boundaries. Using a duoethnographic approach, the authors demonstrate how new theoretical frameworks are necessary to recognize and explain racism, racialized social relations, and other marginalization processes evident in Brazilian schools and society. They argue that the dynamic relationships between social change, schools, and language can be effectively studied through a critical evaluation of the democratization processes of higher education and teacher training programs. By illustrating the effects of bodies, language, and ideas as they cross social and institutional 'borderlands', the authors highlight the racialized social disparities in knowledge creation, language use, and institutions, and show how politicized teachers from marginalized communities have the potential to force change in centralized curriculum and testing regimes.

In Chapter 3, ''Rural-urban divides and digital literacy in Mongoliam higher education'', Daariimaa Marav examines how the urban-rural divide in Mongolia is maintained and consolidated in the context of a shift in the language of power from Russian to English and the arrival of digital technologies. Specifically, Marav uses a mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methods approach to study how Mongolian university students incorporate digital literacies into their lives and how these are increasingly intertwined with their language practices, specifically their English language proficiency. The chapter shows that students' status, prestige, and knowledge are directly affected by their engagement with digital technologies in ways that create and reproduce new forms of symbolic capital and that, in turn, reinforce the historic rural-urban divide in the country. In sum, despite offering the promise of increased crossing and redefinition of territorial and social boundaries through digital technology use, long-standing divisions in Mongolia are in fact being strengthened.

Section 2

Teresa Speciale, in Chapter 4 ''Knowledge politics, language and inequality in educational publishing'', addresses the perpetuation of language inequality through linguistic shaming in a bilingual French-English school in Dakar, Senegal. Speciale argues that the combination of the school's language policies-- i.e. the use of French and English and the banning of African languages-- and the students' relatively privileged backgrounds creates a cycle of shaming wherein students simultaneously feel shame and shame others. The chapter shows how the school's language policies both reflect and reinforce an underlying ideology that frames 'global' as European and 'local' as African. In doing so, these policies mold a school culture that celebrates students' global identities and global languages while shaming their African identities and African languages. Further, these identities are carried over to their lives outside of school as students seek to differentiate themselves as 'global' and modern, through claims over who is portrayed as African based on their ideologies about the relationship of schools to local vs. global identities and the purpose of schooling more generally.

Chapter 5, ''The role of shame in drawing social boundaries by empowerment: ELT in Kiribati'' by Indika Liyanage and Suresh Canagarajah, also conducts an analysis of linguistic shaming and its effects on a particular community. In this case, however, the authors show that for the I-Kiribati (the people of Kiribati), the identities of English users compete with strongly defined I-Kiribati identities and community solidarity. The authors consider the dynamics of teaching and learning English with respect to questions of shame and shaming practices in the language classroom and their effects on students' emotions and motivations. They find that the practice of shaming English use in Kiribati, while creating a tension with respect to ELT (English Language Teaching) pedagogies in the community, has the potential to affirm community cohesion, regulate cultural change, and manage multilingual repertoires as well as to counter the individual and materialistic ideologies that are introduced by international development agencies (and that promote ELT). The study provides a strong warning to assumptions of universal desires for English that ignore the desire of individuals, groups, and communities for autonomy and cultural affirmation.

In Chapter 6, ''Native –speakerism and symbolic violence in constructions of teacher competence'', Junia C.S. Mattos Zaidan focuses on the symbolic violence that is enacted on English teachers in Brazil through ideologies of native speakerism and the closely related myth of 'authenticism'. The chapter asks: How is the symbolic violence of native speakerism manifested and reproduced? To answer this, Mattos Zaidan discusses the relationship between the cultural reproduction of boundaries and notions such as 'real' English, professional and academic prestige, legitimacy, English-only institutional practices, and the role of English in the national curriculum. Similar to the shaming practices reported in the chapter by Speciale (Ch 4), the author shows through careful analysis of empirical survey data that the overall effect of native speakerism is to feed a cycle that elevates the West and reinforces the alienation of post-colonial teachers and students. Rather than ignore these complex relationships, the author argues that we must work to understand them by taking stock of native speakerism and authenticism as embedded within the capitalist logic of oppression and domination.

In Chapter 7, ''Knowledge politics, language and inequality in educational publishing'', Maria do Socorro Alencar Nunes Macedo, Daniele Alves Ribeiro, Euclides de Freitas Couto, and André Luan Nunes Macedo conducted interviews and analyzed documents related to academic journals in Brazil to address the dynamics of English and inequality in educational publishing. The authors consider the strategies available to journals to achieve a high status by focusing on the history and development of Educacao em Revista, produced by the Graduate Program in Education at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Through this case study, the authors interrogate the system of evaluation of journals in Brazil to show that, because articles in English have the advantage in terms of visibility and legitimacy, measured in terms of national and international impact, Brazilian journals have been progressively creating the conditions to publish in English. The main consequences of this are: 1) delocalization, 2) the reproduction of colonial knowledge politics through the favoring of certain social networks over others, 3) the privileging of theoretical references that derive from Europe and the USA, and 4) the production of materials in 'global' languages like English. These considerations raise fundamental questions for the Brazilian academy, such as: What are the expectations for academic research and publishing in Brazil? Who benefits? What is the purpose?

Section 3

Carolyn McKinney, in Chapter 8 ''Decoloniality and language in education: Transgressing language boundaries in South Africa'', examines educational policymaking in South Africa and, specifically, the ways in which the colonial ideologies of language inform and construct language policies. McKinney shows that these colonial language ideologies are monoglossic and Anglonormative and fail to recognize the depth and breadth of (mostly Black) children's linguistic resources. In response to this situation, the author presents a case study in an elementary classroom that takes a dynamic bilingual approach to disrupt monolingual language ideologies and socially constructed language boundaries by repositioning multilingualism as a norm and a resource. Through this alternative framing of heteroglossic practices and African languages, the approach recontextualizes the children's linguistic resources as advantageous rather than as problematic and deficient. The main strengths of the approach are shown to derive from two main orientations: 1) a Critical Language Awareness that explicitly addresses relationships between language and power, and 2) a translanguaging perspective in which students are able to draw freely and creatively on their full linguistic repertoires.

Dánie de Jesus, in Chapter 9 ''Queering literacy in Brazil's higher education: Questioning the boundaries of the normalized body'', innovatively approaches the topic of inequality in education through the theme of the discursively constructed body. The chapter focuses on the preparation of English language teachers and the unique insights and potential created by engaging with gendered and sexual identities in the language classroom. The chapter examines a specific set of teaching strategies used to tackle physical and symbolic violence with respect to gender in the higher education classroom. With this, the author argues in favor of a critical literacy approach to language teaching by demonstrating that this work positively affects teacher education through the inspiration of new understandings and debate on gender-related issues which, in turn, can potentially foster resistance against gender inequality.

In the final chapter, '''Saudi women are finally allowed to sit behind the wheel': Initial responses from TESOL classrooms'', Osman Z. Barnawi and Phan Le Ha also address the relationships between language, language teaching, and gendered inequality. They show how, in the case of Saudi Arabia, English has been positioned as central to a new economy and to a series of social transformations, including gender role transformations. These macro-level changes are the context in which Saudi, female, Western-trained TESOL teachers consider their new freedoms (including, for example, the freedom to drive) as well as the role that English might play in their own empowerment. The authors demonstrate how these teachers draw on these experiences in their own TESOL classrooms and conclude that the different strategies and pedagogies the teachers explore are motivated and made especially relevant through the effects of the historic systems of oppression that they experience.


This volume adds important voices, connections, and perspectives to our understanding of the relationships between language, inequality, and education and does so at a moment of renewed focus on systemic racism and the legacies of colonialism (cf. Motha, 2020). Taken as a whole, the collection of 10 chapters provides a strong glimpse of the wealth of experience, authority, and insight that scholars working in the Global South bring to these issues.

One particularly strong contribution of the volume is the breadth and depth of connections it offers to the literature in a variety of disciplines, particularly education, applied linguistics, sociology, and anthropology. It provides much needed insight into central topics of interest to a range of scholars, including: native-speakerism (Chapter 6) (cf. Gerald, 2019; Zacharias, 2019), language shaming (Chapters 4 and 5), bilingual education (Chapter 4), English Language Teaching (Chapters 5 and 10), digital technology and digital literacy (Chapter 3), translanguaging (Chapter 8) (cf. Garcia, 2009), raciolinguistics (Chapter 2) (cf. Flores and Rosa, 2015), gender inequality (Chapter 9), and linguistic and socio-political dimensions of academic publishing (Chapter 7).

This diversity of topics is complemented well by the attention that is given to a diversity of perspectives Because of the way the volume is organized, approximately half of the chapters are written with the context of Brazil in mind and the remaining works represent a combination of contexts from across the Global South: Asia (Mongolia), Polynesia (Kiribati), Middle East (Saudi Arabia), West Africa (Senegal), and South Africa. In addition, the chapters address a range of educational levels, from elementary to post-secondary, though more attention is given to higher education levels.

In addition to the thorough considerations of the complex social and linguistic dynamics in diverse settings, another notable contribution is the attention given to critical literacy and to specific case studies and classroom strategies. For example, in Chapter 2 Kassandra Muniz, to illustrate the concept of borderlands and the power of a transnational perspective, discusses the potential impacts that visiting scholars can have on students and reports the visit of Phanel Georges, a Black Haitian scholar and educator, to university students in Brazil. She states, “The fact that they met a Black man who spoke four languages already caused a surprise that only racism can explain” (p. 36). As Muniz emphasizes, this reaction contrasted sharply with how his Blackness was read in Haiti. In Chapter 8, Carolyn McKinney details the rationale behind a biliteracy program among 10-12 year olds in rural South Africa and the many successes it has found. In Chapter 9, Dánie de Jesus describes a series of tasks and activities for working with higher education students that are aimed at confronting the symbolic violence towards gay/lesbian/transgender students. Lastly, Osman Z. Barnawi and Phan Le Ha, in Chapter 10, demonstrate the effectiveness of a series of pedagogical tasks in TESOL classrooms aimed at achieving the demands of women’s struggles in Saudi Arabia. In sum, scholars, educators, and policy makers are able to draw on these and other examples in the volume as resources and inspiration for concrete actions to both recognize and transgress boundaries across educational settings.

While the contributions of the volume are numerable, it is worth pointing to one area where additional insight and analysis could be especially beneficial in the future, with respect to perspectives from the Global South. In tackling issues of inequality, language ideologies, and language use, the chapters in this volume primarily address the tensions reflected in and produced by the presence and use of categorically distinct languages. The volume explores tensions between, for example, English, French, and Wolof in Senegal (Chapter 4), English and African languages in South Africa (Chapter 8), English and Portuguese in Brazil (Chapters 2, 7, and 9) English, Portuguese, and Amazonian languages in Brazil (Chapter 1), and English and Russian in Mongolia (Chapter 3), as well as tensions inherent to English language teaching (Chapters 5, 6, and 10). Meanwhile, the status and tensions around minoritized language varieties and dialects or is rarely interrogated. A few of the chapters that deal with issues of native speakerism, raciolinguistics, and translanguaging (Chapters 2, 6, and 8) touch briefly on related issues and give a sense of the complexity involved once the maintenance and transgression of boundaries around standardized language and minoritized language varieties are considered.

Overall, through a strong theoretical and applied lens, the diverse array of experiences that this book draws upon makes it a valuable resource for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in education, language teaching, and applied linguistics. The volume has the potential to inspire additional scholarship from diverse perspectives that will enrich our understanding of the dynamics of language boundaries and the complex connections to pressing social issues such as social inequality, colonialism, and racism.


Anzaldúa, G. 1987. Borderlands: La frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Flores, N. and Rosa, J. 2015. Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review 85(2). 149-171.

García, Ofelia. 2009. Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Malden, MA and Oxford: Basil/Blackwell.

Gerald, J.P.B., 2020. Worth the Risk: Towards Decentering Whiteness in English Language Teaching. BC TEAL Journal 5(1). 44-54.

Motha, S., 2020. Is an Antiracist and Decolonizing Applied Linguistics Possible?. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 40. 128-133.

Zacharias, N.T., 2019. The ghost of nativespeakerism: The case of teacher classroom introductions in transnational contexts. TESOL Journal, 10(4). e499.


Juan José Bueno Holle holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. His research interests include language documentation, Mesoamerican languages, and discourse pragmatics. His work has received support from the Endangered Languages Development Programme (ELDP), the National Science Foundation's Documenting Endangered Languages program (NSF-DEL), and the Smithsonian Institution. He is currently a lecturer in the College of Education at California State University, Sacramento.

Page Updated: 11-Mar-2021