Exploring the living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK

22 September 2017

This month we published Taking Chinese to the World by Wei Ye. In this post the author gives us an insight into her own experience of living in the UK as a Confucius Institute Chinese teacher.

At chilly spring dusk, like any of the after-work Friday afternoons in the past few months, I was sitting in a small tavern named “El Guapo” among my chuffed American social circles, sipping a margarita while half-listening to their chattering. I had no interest in Super Bowl or Sarah Palin. Or let’s be frank, I couldn’t fully catch their words. Savouring Chinese food and watching Chinese drama were the treats I yearned for after peanut butter jellied buzzing weekdays. Some of my associates, who had been abroad and had experience dealing with foreigners, would kindly slow down and ask which team I support, or have a few words with me from time to time. For the rest, I was an excellent companion. What else could I do? If I wish not to become “unsociable, eccentric and maladjusted” like my predecessors, as I had been reminded upon arrival, I should be cheerful, sweet, devoted, always say Yes, why not? Great, let’s do it! And smile.

I didn’t realize what Super Bowl and margaritas had done to me until a year later I was entrenched in the research of study abroad. The daily life in Britain immersed me into the intangible power relationship between language, culture, capital, and identity. I was also amazed at the changes that had taken place for my expatriates and me.

My book explores the work and living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK through their accounts and reflection, and how this context and the wider globalised social environment have impacted on their understandings and their personal growth.

To sum up, this book germinated from Super Bowl and margaritas but fermented in English ale, might be of interest to those focused on identity and interculturality in the context of globalization.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning by Jeffrey Gil. 


The Impact of Neoliberalism on Education and Language Learning

14 September 2017

This month we are publishing Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and touch on its main themes.

Nowadays cuts in spending, austerity plans and restructuring of the public sector have become commonplace for a large part of the world population. This development is far from new, but rather stands in the tradition of neoliberalism, as introduced on both sides of the Atlantic by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

In the context of education, central elements to these reforms have been privatisation, competitiveness and marketisation. The colonization of education by market principles has introduced a paradigmatic change which has resulted in an abdication of a Humboldtian education model to one which favours ideas of employability and profitability. This change proves problematic for most humanities, social sciences and language studies which have to legitimise their worth. The neoliberal austerity measures thus also have a very direct impact on us as researchers and teachers alike.

Against this backdrop, we wanted to engage in an empirical discussion on the interplay and effects of the implementation of neoliberal policies, the increasing hegemony of neoliberal governmentalities on education and on language learning and teaching. In short, as we, the editors of this volume argue, the current political economic conditions bring about a resignification of education, language, and the self that fits the neoliberal agenda, which pushes, among other things, the turning of language into skills and items of branding, the responsibilisation of individuals and the turning of them into entrepreneurs of themselves.

We follow the trajectories of students, teachers and educators as well as of institutions that are subjected to these political economic transformations. Touching upon a variety of geographical, social, and linguistic contexts, the researchers contributing to this book will provide first-hand accounts and critical inquiries into issues that range from the detrimental ideologies of self-deprecation of South Koreans in the face of hastily implemented English as the general medium of instruction for higher education, to efforts of the Chinese government to commercialise the teaching of Mandarin and the contradictory effects this has on notions of linguistic authenticity and legitimacy.

Further insights are offered in terms of language teaching, i.e. the neoliberal conditions teachers of English for Academic Purposes have to face, due to which they turn to veritable “resource leeching” or the joint-initiative of teachers and parents to support their refugee children, left behind in official US school policies that is entirely output-oriented. University students also form the object of interest in this volume, as conscious agents trying to accumulate linguistic capital even if only for symbolic reasons, both Italian-speaking students in German-speaking Switzerland or Brazilian students in Anglo-Canada. A third stream brings contributors to discuss minority languages in educational settings in the US (Spanish-English dual bilingual and Mexico and their recalibration along neoliberal ideas of commodification and valorization). A final focus centres on language teaching for vocational purposes.

Come and join us on this journey – even if you might not like what you see.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education by John E. Petrovic.


Behind the Scenes… Marketing Your Book

8 September 2017

Every month Laura and I sit down together to have a marketing meeting where we discuss books that are currently in production, are about to be published or have just been published. This is a chance for us to outline a bespoke marketing plan for each book and check up on its progress at key points throughout the publication process.

Shortly after a book goes into production, we have an initial meeting about it, in which we take a look at the documents filled out by the author and the commissioning editor (this is when the Author Questionnaire comes into its own!) and devise a personalised marketing plan for it. The commissioning editor will have pointed out the book’s unique features and flagged up anything else that might help us to market the book (does its publication coincide with a relevant day, e.g. World Heritage Day or is there a particular news story that ties in with the book’s content?)

The AQ is another source of valuable information to us at this point, as it contains details of relevant conferences, journals, blogs, newspapers, magazines and organisations that we can contact to spread news of the book’s publication. If you have any specific contacts, like a journalist for example, make sure you include this on your AQ, as it can be a challenge to successfully make contact with newspapers or magazines without one. In the past, the books which have had the most exposure have been the ones whose authors have given us plenty of ideas for publicising the book and have put us in touch with relevant people who will help to spread the word. When it comes to the media, local contacts should not be underestimated. It’s often local papers and magazines that will be most receptive to being contacted and – particularly if your book is of local interest – more likely to want to feature a piece about it. If you’re able to establish contact prior to the publication of your book, it will be easier for us to go back and notify them once the book comes out.

Our two Twitter pages on which we post tweets about books

At the end of the initial meeting, we outline a plan for the book and assign tasks to each of us. I deal with all the social media promotion (including arranging blog posts, publicising the book on Twitter and Facebook, posting any accompanying videos on our YouTube channel etc.), as well as contacting any media and organisations we think might be interested. This could be anything from print newspapers and magazines to blogs and online publications, as well as specific organisations with mailing lists who may be able to share publication news with their members. Meanwhile Laura takes care of areas such as conferences, book prizes and production of marketing materials like flyers.

Shortly before publication, we meet to discuss our progress. This interim meeting is more of a check-up meeting than an action one as we make sure that we have everything prepared ready to launch on publication. The timing of marketing can be key so it is important that we are all set in time for the book’s release. We might do things such as make sure that we have asked the author to write a piece for our blog, written a press release ready to send out on publication or made a list of suitable journals to offer the book to for review.

Finally, once a book is published we meet to discuss what we have done, what was successful and what was less so. We record all our efforts and eventually present an individual marketing report for each book to the rest of the team. This is done six months after publication when we also look at the early sales of the title. We are always interested to see if there is any correlation between ours and the author’s marketing efforts and the early reception a book gets.

If you have any ideas for marketing your book that aren’t here, make sure you get in touch as we’ll always do our best to make them happen!

Flo


Three decades working with language learner autonomy

5 September 2017

This month we are publishing Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen. In this post the authors reflect on three decades’ work in the field.

Learner autonomy entails that learners are fully involved in planning, implementing and evaluating their own learning. We were first introduced to the concept in the 1980s. For Leni Dam it offered a way of responding to the challenge of differentiation in teaching and learning at school; for Lienhard Legenhausen and David Little it was a prerequisite for successful self-access language learning at university. Our collaboration of almost three decades, however, has focused on classroom learning. Leni and Lienhard have used empirical techniques to explore the outcomes of autonomous language learning and compare them with the outcomes achieved by learners working with a ‘communicative’ textbook; while David has been concerned to derive pedagogical principles from successful practice to facilitate replication in other contexts.

Although learner autonomy has been a focus for innovation in language education for almost forty years, it’s equally relevant to other areas of the curriculum. In our view its operationalization entails that learner self-management and reflective learning are exercised and further developed via ‘practice’ appropriate to the curriculum subject in question. In a language classroom, practice means use of the target language as the preferred medium of communication and reflection. Under guidance from their teacher, autonomous language learners use the target language from the beginning to plan, implement and evaluate their learning. Writing plays an indispensable role: learning is documented in logbooks and portfolios, and this supports use of the oral language and facilitates reflection on the process and content of learning.

It is sometimes assumed that learner autonomy is concerned exclusively with individual learning, but this is a misunderstanding. All effective classroom learning is based on interactive communication; what makes the autonomy classroom different is the fact that, by definition, the learners have equal right of access to all discourse roles, initiating as well as responding. Our experience leads us to define the autonomy classroom as a self-generating and self-maintaining community of practice whose members develop proficiency by using the target language to manage their own learning individually and collaboratively. This means that they devise their own learning materials and produce a wide variety of creative texts – stories, poems, plays, and reports on projects of many different kinds.

Some years ago, Leni asked a class of 15-year-olds, ‘After four years of learning English, how would you assess your overall progress?’ This is what one girl wrote (transcribed without correction):

“I already make use of the fixed procedures from our diaries when trying to get something done at home. Then I make a list of what to do or remember the following day. That makes things much easier. I have also via English learned to start a conversation with a stranger and ask good questions. And I think that our “together” session has helped me to become better at listening to other people and to be interested in them. I feel that I have learned to believe in myself and to be independent.”

Clearly, in four years this learner has acquired a proficiency in English that extends her communicative and reflective capacity and with it her identity. Her facility in writing implies that English is a fully integrated part of her developing plurilingual literacy.

The autonomy classroom shares fundamental pedagogical principles with inclusive education. It is thus not surprising that autonomous learning succeeds with students whose learning difficulties might cause them to fail in more traditional pedagogical settings. We have also found that learner autonomy empowers adult refugees learning the language of their host community; and that when primary pupils from immigrant families are encouraged to use their home languages in the classroom (even though their teacher may not understand them), this not only helps them come to grips with curriculum content but also gives them an interest in taking autonomous learning initiatives.

Everything we have written about learner autonomy over the past thirty years or so has taken successful practice as its starting point, and we have always believed that learner autonomy is first a pedagogical imperative and only secondly a fertile research topic. Aimed at student teachers, teacher educators and language learning researchers, our book will have served its purpose if it encourages more language teachers to embrace the principles of learner autonomy and find ways of implementing them in their classrooms.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy Managing Diversity in Education edited by David Little, Constant Leung and Piet Van Avermaet.


Making Sense in Sign: A Lifeline for a Deaf Child

22 August 2017

Next year will mark 15 years since the publication of Jenny Froude’s book Making Sense in Sign: A Lifeline for a Deaf Child, inspired by her profoundly deaf son, Tom. In this post, Jenny updates us on Tom’s story (he is now a father himself!) and reflects on her experience as a parent of a deaf child.

Tom relaxing at home with his family

When my book about my profoundly deaf son (now being reprinted, to order) was launched in 2003, I handed him a copy saying “This is your life Tom – and you can write the sequel”! He rashly agreed, saying and signing that I would have to wait another 20 years! Despite his language in emails being so expressive, I doubt he will be doing that, as he’s too busy working, creating a home and, above all, enjoying his young family with his deaf wife.

It was texts that alerted me to the good news of their births. “It’s baby girl, Daisy Mary Froude … natural birth no drugs used. Both doing well” and, 28 months later “it happened all so fast. So we got beautiful boy Oliver. Came into this world 7.08 p.m.  Not weighted (sic) yet”. I loved his wording;  not a bald “born” but four words that gave more gravity to the event. Both babies were born three weeks early, in a tremendous hurry to arrive, and both passed, as expected, their Newborn Hearing Screening.

In my book, two letters in the Appendix were written by me to Tom, the first when he was barely one year old, the second as he started in secondary school. Were I to write another now, it would be to congratulate him, not only on all he has achieved, but on his skills as a parent. In his own words, he never takes his survival from meningitis at 5 months for granted but, delighting in his new status, said in an anniversary email in August 2013 “bless you for remembering me on this special day that I fought for life. How lucky am I to be here and be a new dad and living my dream!” He had already described, a month earlier, how newborn Daisy “is still bringing joy in our household” and reminded us we didn’t need to be invited to visit. “Time is precious and I want you to enjoy seeing Daisy grow before she gets big”. Later, when his “golden boy” Oliver arrived, he wrote “I love his reactions when he sees me smile back to him. Melts my heart”. Such descriptions must surely be a testimony to his early communication via signing and I shall forever be indebted to the peripatetic teacher who suggested it.

Just as most parents hang on to every one of their infant’s utterances, so I hung on to Tom’s early signs and now I have the joy of watching his hearing children develop their signed and spoken language. The years disappeared as I watched first his daughter (now 4) and then his son (21 months) sign “bird” with baby hands, just as he had done over 30 years ago!

5 month old Daisy still fascinated by her hands late on Christmas night 2013

As a lovingly observant father, it was Tom himself who first noticed that 5-month old Daisy was “getting more fascinated with her hands”. She spent her first Christmas studying them intently at frequent intervals, obviously already aware of what a large part hands played in family life! Poignantly that very day she was exactly the same age as her father had been when near-fatal meningitis struck and robbed him of his hearing.

Oliver, a carbon copy of his dad at the same age, minus the cumbersome bodyworn hearing aid of the early 80s, already has a repertoire of signs and phrases, and babbles beautifully, just as his sister did. I smile as I think back to all those concerned people who asked me “how will they ever learn to speak?”! This sociable little family is surrounded by hearing people of all ages and both love, and are loved by, their part-time nursery school. There have been times, though, when despite both parents’ brilliant lip-reading, an amusing throwaway remark from a toddler has provoked an involuntary laugh from me, and I have looked up to see a quizzical expression on their faces, needing an explanation of my mirth. That can feel painful for both parties…

When Tom was tiny, waiting outside our gate for the school bus, we often met a lady who was fascinated by him because her parents were deaf, which had an enormous influence on her, making her very independent and self-reliant and teaching her tolerance and compassion. She felt she had learnt to understand people, not only through their words but also through interpreting body language, a valuable skill indeed.

I saw this valuable sensitivity manifest in Daisy at 24 months, when she was alerted to the sound of dogs barking. What had been just background noise to me had obviously changed to a frenzied tone which she detected immediately, racing across the garden to fetch her mother, who found a stranger at the door! She also taps her parents to gain attention, lipspeaks with a whisper when occasion calls for it, and signs when making a request or relaying something of interest.

Thanks to their very grounded parents, both youngsters are calm and contented. Oliver’s very infrequent protests seem to be silent ones! After delighting in his first Easter egg hunt his little face said it all as it came to an end. Sorrow and fury combined – but no sound. No howls of rage, just a facial expression to convey his feelings, and all over in a second! How does he know that screams are lost on deaf ears?

Thirty odd years ago I was astounded when a Social Worker with Deaf people was relieved and delighted to find a couple’s newborn baby was deaf. She saw my shock and explained that, had she been hearing, that baby would be destined to grow up having to take responsibility for interpreting for her deaf parents, even in inappropriate circumstances. I cannot imagine our grandchildren ever being burdened with such responsibility but it is interesting to see how, just as their parents are so sensitively attuned to their needs, they seem to adjust to life with the mother and father they obviously adore! It leads to fascinating family dynamics.

In an age now which is more Deaf Aware, people rightly expect access to a fully qualified professional interpreter, especially in legal, medical and educational settings. MP Dawn Butler has made the case for BSL to have legal status as in other countries and, since 2003, it has been recognised here as a language in its own right. And it is reported that University College London will recognise sign language as a foreign language for the first time from September 2017.

Making Sense in Sign has been reviewed by professionals, parents and deaf organisations. A fellow author described its strength as “making the subject accessible to a much wider field than a specialised audience”, a Teacher of the Deaf referred to it as an “inspiration”, seeing language development outside the “narrow confines of the classroom” and concluded “professionals should read this book and refer back to it often”. It has also been seen as a “valuable contribution, long needed in a world that so often presents a negative view of deafness”. Another journalist described it as “moving, instructive, uplifting, funny, thought-provoking and very well written” and a consultant trainer in childcare as “essential reading for care and education professionals, social workers, health visitors and and speech therapists … a moving story which brings the concept of partnership with parents to the fore”. And, yet another, as a “sound and sensitive appreciation of the D/deaf issues: sign, implants”. A mother of a deaf daughter wrote “a book full of hope and exuberant delight in a beloved child”.

I look back down the years with huge gratitude to Series Editor Colin Baker’s insight and apparent appreciation of the personal aspects of my book which were left in and without which I would have felt Tom’s story was compromised. I am gratified that it is read by professionals and students of sign language, and delighted that, as a human story, it is recommended and reaches parents with a deaf child.

Completed, as it was, by Tom’s 21st birthday, my book covered various issues. There are different ones today but parents are still likely to be shell-shocked at an infant’s initial diagnosis at such a vulnerable time. When Tom was deafened as a baby there were 3 specialist social workers in our borough; today there are none. This lack puts added pressure on Teachers of the Deaf who are responsible for ages 0 to 19 years, overseeing audiology and speech and language therapy provision and now social care. Deaf teenagers whose families have never learned to sign are likely to feel isolated at home and those in mainstream can struggle with identity problems. Mental health issues mean that specialist counselling is sorely needed. Good CHSWGS (Children’s Hearing Services Working Groups) bring together all the disciplines which cover hearing loss and can be a forum that benefits all parties, empowering and informing parents.

A poignant “listen” from a deaf man to his hearing son

Via his emails, which have been one of my rewards for all we did to chase language together, Tom has painted a picture of his life today and proved to me that the signs we used have stood him in good stead and given him the power to express his personality. A while ago I had the privilege of signing Bob Chilcott’s beautiful “Can You Hear Me?” in a concert by a local community choir. “My world’s a silent one but it’s enough for me. I hear you through your hands, the movement sets me free. But it would be a special thing to hear your voice, to hear you sing” and it ends with a poignant “can you hear me….?”

My voice is my book. I can hear him through his emails. Both of these are special things.

Jenny Froude

For more information about this book please see our website


Publishing FAQs: Info Box Queries

17 August 2017

Every day we receive a wide variety of queries to our Info box. These come from all over the world from authors, customers, booksellers and more. In this post Alice provides answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Alice ready to answer all your queries

I want to order some books but I’ve forgotten my discount code/I don’t know how to use it!

You’ve come to the right place – I can check if you’re using the right code and correct it for you if not. In order to use your code you need to enter it exactly as you received it (capital letters and all), into the box titled ‘Promotion code’ when you get to the online checkout. Click the ‘Apply’ button and you should immediately see the discount applied.

I ordered a book and it hasn’t arrived, when will I receive it?

How long a book takes to be delivered varies depending on where it’s going. We have a rough guideline as to how long a book should take to reach certain parts of the world. For the UK, it should be with you in 5-7 days, Europe 2-3 weeks, USA and Canada 2 weeks and the rest of the world 2-3 weeks. If your book still hasn’t arrived after the estimated time, email us at info for more information. I’ll be able to look on our system to see if the book has been despatched and whether there were any issues along the way.

I ordered an inspection copy and now I want to adopt the book, how do I do this?

If you’ve already been in touch to request an inspection copy and are now hoping to adopt the book for your course, I will need a small amount of information for our records. Please let me know the name of your institution and the course you are running; how many students will be taking the course; the dates it will run and its level. If you originally received an ebook, I can then send you a hard copy for your desk and if you already have a hard copy, it is then yours to keep!

Can you provide me with a book in a format that is accessible for visually or print impaired students?

Absolutely. We are able to provide University Disability Support Services with an e-file that can be converted into a suitable format for visually or print impaired students. Just email the info box with the book that is required and I can sort this out for you.

You have changed your distributors, who are they now?

That’s right, we changed both our distributors last year, so any orders that you place on our website or at a conference will now go through our new distributors. For the UK, Europe and the rest of world, except as follows, our distributors are NBNi, who can be contacted on orders@nbninternational.com, and for the USA, Canada, Central and South America, it is NBN, who can be contacted on customercare@nbnbooks.com.

How can I get the latest book news?

If you’d like to be kept up to date with our latest releases and book news, you can sign up to our mailing list on our website or if you prefer, simply email me your name, email and address and I can add you to our mailing list myself. Be sure to let me know what you’re interested in (Language Arts/Tourism Studies/Creative Writing Studies/Translation Studies etc) and we’ll keep you informed with a relevant newsletter and mailings! Another great way to stay in touch is to check out our Twitter (MM and CVP) and Facebook (MM and CVP) accounts where we regularly post relevant news, new books and blog posts. And of course, you can also subscribe to get new posts from this blog straight to your inbox by signing up here.

I’m thinking about submitting a book proposal, how do I go about this?

Great! If you’re an author who hasn’t submitted a proposal with us before, you may not know that we have a set of guidelines for all authors to follow – this helps to make the process of considering your proposal as smooth as possible. At the bottom of that page you can find who to send your proposal to, or alternatively send it to the info box and I will ensure that it reaches the right person! If the proposal looks to be of interest to us, we will schedule it for discussion at our next in-house editorial meeting and if it is positively received, it will then be sent on to the appropriate academic editor of the book series or an external reviewer. You can find more information about the publishing process with us here.

Feel free to contact us with any queries you might have at info@channelviewpublications.com.


Understanding Racialized Expectations in the ELT Profession

10 August 2017

This month we are publishing Race and Ethnicity in English Language Teaching by Christopher Joseph Jenks. In this post the author discusses where racialized expectations come from and how they shape language teaching and learning.

Expectations are everything; they help us make decisions and make sense of existing life experiences. Our expectations shape decisions to seek out particular food items, holiday destinations and places of residence, and influence the extent to which we are satisfied with them. For instance, the satisfaction that I receive from eating a kale salad is not tied to my expectation that this particular food item tastes good. This would, without saying, be a foolish expectation. Rather, consuming a kale salad brings me satisfaction because of my expectations that it will result in good health and allow me to align myself with the all-important hipster community. Of course, the belief that kale is a food item of both a health-conscious individual and an advanced human being is the result of many years of cultural conditioning, which materializes in my decision to seek out particular foods and shop at grocery stores that will remain unnamed.

The decision to enrol in a particular school taught by an instructor that looks a certain way and speaks a specific language variety is also shaped by an existing set of expectations. My book, which examines race and racism in English language teaching and learning, is essentially about understanding where racialized expectations come from, and how they shape our understanding of, and actions pertaining to, the profession. That is to say, a preference for hiring White instructors from so-called Western countries does not materialize in a vacuum – a key observation in my book – but this ideology is rather rooted in a history of cultural conditioning that informs individuals what they should expect to see and hear in the language classroom.

What discourses and ideologies are responsible for such expectations? The expectation that English is a language (best) spoken, and therefore taught, by a small group of countries comes from a number of discourses and ideologies, and indeed varies from one region of the world to another, including colonial and imperial histories; in a place like South Korea, English is often associated with North America because of the role the United States has in military, political, and economic affairs.

My interest in writing this book comes from the many unanswered questions that exist regarding how such expectations become racialized in and through the discourses that are circulated within the English language teaching profession. For instance, I was motivated to understand how neoliberal forces shape the expectations one has when thinking about what English course to take. Although I am not interested in criticizing neoliberalism as an economic theory necessarily, I was motivated to show that the commodification of English facilitates the creation and circulation of racialized expectations. The book was also written because I was very much interested in examining how expectations are formulated from the point of view of privilege, such as White instructors from places like the United States. I show in my book, for example, that racial privilege creates the expectation among White instructors that they are in the best position to facilitate language learning, and this in turn influences how said teachers orient themselves within the profession; I refer to this expectation as White saviorism.

Although this project is ultimately about understanding where racialized expectations come from and how they shape language teaching and learning, the book also explores what needs to be done in the profession to create new discourses and ideologies that attend to the racial diversity that exists within the workforce. Like my desire to eat kale salads, I attempt to show that racial discrimination and privilege are misplaced expectations that come from years of cultural conditioning. This is no easy task, as racism is tied to decades of complex political and cultural struggles; yet I will be happy if my book makes even the smallest of contributions to the eradication of racism in the profession.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you enjoyed this, you might also be interested in Why English? edited by Pauline Bunce, Robert Phillipson, Vaughan Rapatahana and Ruanni Tupas.


No, Where Are You Really From? The Impact of Categorizing Others

8 August 2017

This month we are publishing Becoming Diasporically Moroccan by Lauren Wagner. In this post the author discusses the themes of microaggression and othering that are explored in her book.

© Kiyun Kim – from Racial Microaggressions, December 2013

Contrary to the typical imagination of discriminatory speech being direct and obvious, othering or categorizing statements often happen more subtly through microaggression. It can be understood as the ways underlying stereotypes about race, class, gender, and other social attributes are reproduced in casual encounters – like the experience of the woman in the picture on the right, from photographer Kiyun Kim’s project on microaggressions in a NYC university (For more testimonies, see the Microaggressions Tumblr or this nice video at Quartz with examples from film and TV). Microaggressions can be found anywhere, and experienced by anyone who might find their own sense of identity and belonging inadvertently or purposefully stereotyped by someone else. As they are becoming more widely researched and recognized as fostering social divisions, universities around the US are mandating that incoming students learn about the negative impacts of microaggression on their peers.

Yet, the existence of ‘microaggression’ is coming under attack by media and researchers, who question many of the claims made about potentially negative impacts of subtle speech. In Becoming Diasporically Moroccan, I try to show how the very subtle communicative and embodied modes for categorizing others do have an impact – not necessarily a direct and immediate one, but a cumulative and collective impact, as whole communities can come to feel ‘othered’ by the repetition, across members and over time, of small speech acts that create distinctions between us and them. This book doesn’t concentrate on how ‘othered’ groups feel harmed; rather, I try to focus on how othering contributes to evolving ideas of membership, participation, and a sense of belonging in an emerging group.

Let me take the example from the photograph above to illustrate how categorization happens in ordinary conversation.

No, where are you really from?

This is a question I hear quoted all the time by my research participants as one of the most troublesome ones they receive. While they are Moroccan-origin individuals who grew up in Europe, they share the problem of many migrant-origin individuals around the world of somehow not being allowed to be ‘from’ the place where they grew up.

The person asking this question may be on a genuine quest for information, but this includes layered, embedded assumptions that make it microaggressive. It is, firstly, context-specific, and depends on local knowledges and shared assumptions about what is ‘normal’; what should a person who is from somewhere look, sound, or be like? That leads to a second factor: that statement takes into account some kind of visible embodiment as categorizable in a combination of place (e.g. the somewhere she is from) and descent (or, the family lineage she comes from). This statement makes an assumption that place and descent map onto each other following a ‘normal’ category. Asking where she is really from implies that her claim to be from that somewhere is impossible. When these assumptions work together, they perpetuate this kind of (maybe unintentional…) microaggression, where this woman may feel like she has to justify being from the somewhere she feels she is from.

No wonder she is rolling her eyes…

Categorization at ‘home’

In Becoming Diasporically Moroccan, I pick apart face-to-face interactions where similar kinds of categorizing talk takes place, but in a different kind of context. Instead of looking at how Moroccan-origins manage their categorization in their European homelands – which might be compared to how lots of other minorities and migrant-origin groups have to deal with microaggression within a dominant (often ‘white’) group – this book looks at how these categorizations take place between Moroccans who live in Morocco and Moroccan-origin adults who visit Morocco from Europe. Like some other communities that develop in one place and can trace their familial descent to another place, Moroccans have a chance to regularly visit ‘home’. When they do, however, they often feel ‘othered’, in the opposite way to how many feel ‘othered’ in Europe.

By looking at individual examples of interactions in marketplaces, between resident Moroccan vendors and Moroccans-from-Europe, I show the subtle conversational details of how this ‘othering’ works. My conclusion, however, is not about how one or the other party may be doing wrong… Instead, I advocate that we start to think about how individuals like this – who grow up connected by descent and place to multiple homelands – together create new categories that help us evolve our thinking about where anyone might ‘belong’.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Local Languaging, Literacy and Multilingualism in a West African Society by Kasper Juffermans.


The importance of situating work within deeper historical contexts

3 August 2017

This month we published Statehood, Scale and Hierarchy: History, Language and Identity in Indonesia by Lauren Zentz. In this post Lauren reveals the surprising inspiration behind the book.

A month or so ago, after I’d completed this book and actually had time to let my thoughts wander again, I flashed back to the first time that I appreciated history. I was on my first study abroad trip as a college student in 2001 in Avignon, France, sitting in a 13th century building that had become our class building. In the upstairs library I picked up a historical linguistic book on the history of European languages dating all the way back to Roman times. Throughout high school I had developed a great disdain for learning history, as the histories taught in US high schools are not only entirely suspect but they are also incredibly boring, and usually ‘taught’ by a rotating stream of sports coaches (at least in my high school). But this dusty book that I found in this 13th century building in France transported me to a Rome that actually had people (not just Caesars), who walked, and talked, and yelled at politicians, and had relationships and were humans, just like us some millennia later.

I’d never related this experience to the current project at hand – a book about contemporary language in Indonesia – until I sat down that day and reflected on the obsession I’d had with historicizing the Indonesian context as I wrote this book. This need to historicize most certainly had links with current researchers’ calls for the addition of more history to our work; but I’d like to also think that I was driven to do so by that one experience I had so long ago, when I learned that history was where we could see living people exercising agency – and having it exercised over them – in their contexts over long periods of time.

Statehood, Scale and Hierarchy: History, Language and Identity in Indonesia is clearly a book for graduate students and professionals in the fields of Sociolinguistics, Linguistic Anthropology, Applied Linguistics, and Indonesian studies in general. I hope that readers will take away from this book the importance of situating our work within deeper historical contexts. Part of this importance for me comes from the desire to explain that Indonesia’s current historical context is not the way it is simply because of the development of the nation-state in reaction to European colonialism. Many of Indonesia’s current sociolinguistic facts are due to human currents and power dynamics that have been going on for far longer and in far more complex ways than only colonial and post-colonial states can answer for. I have attempted to situate contemporary Java and my college student participants in such a deep history, as individuals conditioned not only by their contemporary subjectivities in Indonesian statehood under globalization, but also as historically situated subjects whose linguistic practices reflect a deep and complicated history of life on Java over centuries.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Race and Ethnicity in English Language Teaching by Christopher Joseph Jenks.


Paying a Visit to Gardners Books

1 August 2017

Last month we headed out of the office and all the way to Eastbourne, for a visit to the UK’s largest book wholesaler, Gardners Books. Gardners stores vast numbers of books, music and film, and holds at least one copy of most of our titles in their huge warehouse, ready to be sent to various customers all over the world. We set off from Bristol nice and early, stopping for lunch on the way, and arrived in plenty of time for our meeting with Mark Smith, our contact at Gardners who looks after our account. We began by sitting down with Mark to discuss our account and be updated on what has been happening since Channel View last visited. We also discussed how Brexit has already started to affect Gardners and what it might mean for the future (although this is very difficult to predict!)

After our catch up, Mark kindly took us on a grand tour of the warehouse – filled with an unimaginable number of books! The first room had three storeys, and bookshelves that amounted overall to 6 miles! We made our way through the aisles and saw people picking book orders, which they then put onto a conveyor belt, ready to be taken to the packing room. Other rooms showed us even more books – consisting of more levels of shelves, this time kept in boxes that are collected by a huge machine and brought to the picker. It’s hard to capture through words and photos just how impressive the operation is; it really is something that has to be seen in person to take in!

It was amazing to hear some of the figures regarding how many books they hold and how many they send out on a daily basis. Gardners is the third biggest wholesaler in the world and 120,000 books leave the warehouse each day. We had hoped to spot one of our own books on the shelves, but due to the sheer size of the warehouse and volume of books stored, it would have been like finding a needle in a haystack! Mark told us that Gardners is currently in the process of a 25% warehouse expansion over the next five years, so we look forward to seeing the progress on our next visit!

Alice


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