An Interview with Andrea Sterzuk

18 November 2011

The Struggle for Legitimacy

This month we are publishing The Struggle for Legitimacy by Andrea Sterzuk. We asked her a few questions about what motivates her research. 

How did you first become interested in studying indigenized Englishes?
It was one of those moments where my intellectual life helped me to understand my lived experiences.  In my first semester of graduate studies, I was taking a course in second language research methods. My professor assigned us the task of writing a research proposal. If I remember correctly, she advised us to choose a research problem that we felt curious or passionate about. In my search, I came across Mary Heit and Heather Blair’s 1993 article Language Needs and Characteristics of Saskatchewan Indian and Metis Students: Implications for Educators. At the same time in my educational sociolinguistics course, I was introduced to William Labov’s seminal work on African American English: Language in the Inner City. Here were two pieces of academic writing that suggested that English language variation is normal and that “nonstandard” English language varieties are legitimate and rule-governed. These views of English language variation didn’t match up with the jokes about “Indian” and “Native” accents I’d grown up with in the Canadian prairies (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brocket_99 for an example). I wanted to know more about how discriminatory and racist views of indigenized Englishes, when held by teachers, might affect Indigenous children in schools. I wrote my research proposal on this topic and it became the focus of my masters and doctoral research and, subsequently, of this book.

What makes your book unique compared to others published in this field?
I think the connections that I make between biased educator views and larger macro processes might set my work apart. There are many classroom-based studies of language variation but this research doesn’t always connect pedagogical practices to colonialism or nationalism, for example.

Which researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
I’m a bit of an academic groupie. When I “discover” someone’s work that I admire, I read everything by them and track them down at conferences so I can hear them speak.  There are many that fall into the category of academic rock star for me but, for the sake of this interview, I’ll name just a few, starting with Suresh Canagarajah.  When I read his work, I often think to myself “oh, I wish I would have said that.” I’ve also had the feeling of being star struck by the writings of Vanessa Andreotti, Zeus Leonardo, Sherene Razack and Sunera Thobani.

Andrea Sterzuk

What bookseither for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?
In terms of books I’ve read for work, I just finished Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts by Margaret Kovach. I highly recommend it. In terms of reading for pleasure, I usually read what my mom and sister pass on to me or what’s recommended to me by some of my reader friends. Some recent pleasure reads include: Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer; Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones; and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.

What is your next research project?
I’m just finishing up what I’m calling a critical case study of globalization and higher education. I’ve spent the past two years interviewing faculty and international students at a Canadian university in an effort to understand pedagogical and institutional responses to the growing presence of multiple Englishes in this particular university.  Next up is a mixed-methods study that investigates what pre-service teachers believe about English language variation and communication as well as if and how their views on language and communication change as they transition to full time teaching.

What do you think you might have done if you hadn’t pursued a career in academia?
Before I fell into this career in academia, I was a French teacher so second language teaching would be a definite possibility. At different times in my life, I’ve also daydreamed about being a librarian or a writer.


An Interview with Susan Bassnett

6 September 2011

This year we published Reflections on Translation by Susan Bassnett which brings together her key essays on translation. We asked her a few questions about her work.

Reflections on Translation

Reflections on Translation

What inspired you to study translation?
I never thought about translation as something to be studied, but from earliest childhood there was always more than one language in my head, so you could say that I was never not translating. That personal dimension then fed into my thinking about translation, hence this book is a personal account of one woman’s engagement with translation  that also tackles sociopolitical and linguistic issues from a professional perspective.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
This book is different from other books on translation because it consists of short essays written for everyone who has an interest, however small, in what translation involves.

Which researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
I have always admired people who can communicate outside the confines of their special field. I respect the scholarship of many theorists and critics who write in a style and languages that are only intelligible to a small elite group of followers, but I admire those people who can reach out to the many. My good friend the late Andre Lefevere was just such a writer, as are Edwin Gentzler, Sherry Simon, Michael Cronin and other key figures in the field of translation.


Susan Bassnett

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?
I read anything and everything. For years now, I have had a personal reading strategy, whereby every year I read some classic work that I managed to miss, I reread something, I select a poet and read his or her complete works and then I read whatever comes my way. This year I was a judge for the Dublin IMPAC prize, so I had over 160 novels to read before the judging meeting in June. I loved the winner, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. Right now I am rereading all the Patrick O’Brien seafaring novels about Jack Aubrey and Dr Maturin, having taken Sir Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet on holiday, along with a book on Celtic spirituality and Edmond de Waal’s marvellous The Hare with Amber Eyes.

What do you think you might have done if you hadn’t pursued a career in academia?
I never wanted to be an academic, I wanted to be a full time writer. I tried twice to earn my living outside academia, but never managed it. However, the compensation of academic life is the constant engagement with the brightest people of the next generation. It keeps one young and on one’s toes.

What are your plans for future research?
I am finishing a book on translation for the Routledge New Critical Idiom series, and will then revise Translation Studies for its 4th edition. This book came out in 1980 and seems to be more popular now than ever, which amazes and delights me. Then I would like to spend more time on my poetry, though I am also committed to finishing a translation of one of Luigi Pirandello’s later plays that is not well known at all in the English-speaking world. I like to have several projects on the go at the same time.


An Interview with Dong Jie

25 August 2011

Having just published Discourse, Identity, and China’s Internal Migration by Dong Jie we wanted to know a bit more about her and her research so we asked her a few questions.

Why did you choose to research discourse and identity in China?
Questions on language and identity are always close to my heart, especially those on China because it is a rapidly changing society where new patterns emerge and negotiate with the old ones.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
My book looks at identities at various scale levels that interact in the same ‘synchronic’ realities.

If you had the time and resources, and a willing publisher, what would be your dream book project?
My dream book project would be a monograph on my ethnographic fieldwork journey in Beijing, a dynamic global city that witnesses fascinating encounters between different traditions, values, and languages.

Which researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
Quite a number of scholars have impacts on my research, such as Jan Blommaert, Sjaak Kroon, Ben Rampton, Li Wei, Gao Yihong, Normann Jørgensen, Dell Hymes (through Jan Blommaert), John Gumperz, Michael Silverstein, Nancy Hornberger, to name just a few.

What’s your favourite place that you’ve travelled in the course of your research?
Yun Nan Province in south China

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?
I am re-reading Bourdieu’s Distinction and Logic of Practice.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?
Travelling, cooking, swimming.


An Interview with Hazel Andrews

6 June 2011

We have just published The British on Holiday by Hazel Andrews. It is the first full length ethnography of charter tourists and uses tourism as a vehicle to explore issues of current social importance. It focuses on charter tourists in the resorts of Palmanova and Magaluf on the Mediterranean Island of Mallorca. We caught up with Hazel and asked her a few questions about her research.

What first attracted you to the study of British tourists in Mallorca?
When I was studying for my MA the argument that tourism is a search for difference was often discussed in the literature. I had the opportunity to visit Mallorca for quite a different project based on the sustainable tourism policies in the municipality of Calvià, this gave me a view of what was happening in charter tourism and it didn’t seem to be very much about the idea of difference to me. So I was interested to find out more about what this particular group of tourists were looking for and how that relates to how they view themselves and their place in the world.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
I use tourism as a means to explore sociocultural issues relating to how people understand who they are and make sense of their world. It is based on a micro level study of touristic practices involving the use of participant observation. As such the book contains lots of information about tourists and tourism but also links to broader academic debates about social constructions of identity and how these are articulated.

Which researchers in your field have particularly inspired you?
I think that the influences on my work are quite eclectic and are drawn from both within the study of tourism and the wider social sciences so inspiration comes from all sorts of different work and people. In formulating a theoretical approach I have been inspired by the works of Pierre Bourdieu and the anthropology of Michael Jackson in particular. Tom Selwyn has also been a great inspiration not just in terms of theory but also in terms of pursuing ideas and practice based on important academic and educational values. Cathy Palmer and Monica Hanefors have also been sources of inspiration in their work about tourists.

As a tourism academic you must get to travel to some exotic locations. Where is the most unusual place you have travelled to for work?
I probably do less travelling than people imagine but when I do travel, exotic or not, I approach each new place with interest.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?
I enjoy being with my family, reading books by Alexander McCall Smith and watching Scandinavian detective programmes.

What are your plans for future research?
I am currently co-editing a book about liminal landscapes and will also be producing another book on the connection between tourism and violence.  I would like to develop the liminal landscapes work further with a project about beaches and to continue my research about constructions of identity in relation to UK produced tourism marketing material. I am keen to develop more work around tourists that involves an ethnographic approach.  I’m also sure that there’s more work to be done in Mallorca.


An Interview with Feliciano Chimbutane

20 May 2011

This week we’ve published Rethinking Bilingual Education in Postcolonial Contexts by Feliciano Chimbutane. This book is in our series Bilingual Education and Bilingualism which is edited by Colin Baker and Nancy Hornberger. We asked Feliciano a few questions about what inspired his research and the difficulties of doing research in underprivileged countries.

What inspired you to study bilingual education in postcolonial contexts?
In postcolonial contexts, and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular, bilingual education is a field of contradiction and contestation. Among other things, this is because African languages continue to be institutionally marginalised, in contexts where ex-colonial languages (e.g. English, French and Portuguese) remain the dominant languages. African languages continue to be deprived of capital value in mainstream societal markets, while at the same time being regarded by their speakers as languages of locality/tradition. This sociolinguistic landscape, associated with the fact that my own country is now introducing bilingual education in formal schooling, is what inspired me to investigate the purpose and value of bilingual education in postcolonial contexts, especially where this form of education is a new phenomenon.

Nowadays, the West tends to dominate the world of academia. Do you think scholars from disadvantaged countries find it more difficult to succeed in the academic world?
Doing research in disadvantaged countries is not an easy task. Constraints include lack of funding for research activities, scarcity of resources and, in many contexts, lack of political will. All these constraints affect the quality of research and make it difficult to collaborate and/or compete with fellow Western researchers. In addition to that, it has not been easy to publish materials focusing on countries of the South. For example, many African scholars find it difficult to publish their work with Western publishers, especially when they are about specific contexts or topics. One of the reasons given by publishers has been that such materials have a limited market. Language is also a barrier for many researchers from the South. In order to be visible, one needs to be published in the so-called languages of wider communication, which in many cases means “English”. So, those who cannot write in English are condemned to anonymity no matter how brilliant their research may be.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I am now editing a book on bilingual education in Mozambique, which will include a number of local contributors working in this field. The book is aimed at documenting and critically exploring a variety of lessons learned during the first years of implementing bilingual education in the country. In collaboration with Jo Shoba, from Edge Hill University, I am also working in a book project on Bilingual Education in the Global South. Involving contributors from different parts of the globe, the volume is meant to be a critical appraisal of the interface between language and education, culture and economy in the global south.

Which other scholars working in the field of bilingual education you most admire?
There is a pool of scholars who I admire in the field of bilingual education. Some of them have been my source of inspiration. For “diplomatic” reasons, I prefer not to mention names here – my writings are revealing anyway!

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?
Among others, I am now reading Sociolinguistics and Language Education, edited by Nancy Hornberger and Sandra L. McKay, a great and comprehensive piece of work.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?
I love to be with my family. So, I always try to find some space to stay and relax with my loved ones. I also enjoy playing and watching football, which is my hobby.


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