Translanguaging and Collaborative Research

This month we published Translanguaging as Transformation edited by Emilee Moore, Jessica Bradley and James Simpson. In this post the editors talk about the research collaborations that led to the book.

The genesis of our new book was our work together on the project Translation and Translanguaging (known as TLANG). TLANG was a large multi-site ethnographic study of communication across languages and cultures in four UK cities. It was led by Angela Creese in Birmingham, and we, the editors of this book, were on the Leeds-based team. From the start we carried out our work collaboratively, an approach that is in some ways quite different from traditional research, and we regarded our participants as co-researchers in the study. This manifested itself in different ways, in relation to the research settings themselves. For example, our work in a capoeira group involved researchers also participating in the class. In the TLANG project’s Creative Arts Labs, which Jessica helped to develop, we also explored how we, as researchers, might work with creative practitioners from across the arts – a dancer, an opera composer, a visual artist, a story-teller – to experience different processes of knowledge construction.

Alongside the TLANG project we were involved in other collaborative research: with a diverse group of street artists in Slovenia (Jessica), with the poets of Leeds Young Authors (Emilee), and with the West Yorkshire community arts group Faceless Arts (Jessica and James). This led to the creation of the AILA Research Network for Creative Inquiry in Applied Linguistics, co-convened by Emilee, Jessica and our Leeds colleague Lou Harvey, who was undertaking research in dramatic inquiry, also working with creative practitioners.

All this prompted us to reflect upon collaborative research processes, and how they appeared to disrupt traditional research hierarchies. We found others who were carrying out research in intercultural communication in similar ways, and equally productively. We’re delighted that some have become authors of chapters in our book. For us, and for our fellow chapter authors, collaborative research allows the inclusion of voices of those who are not typically heard, the voices of those who have ways of knowing and doing that differ from our own. This is important because it makes the creation of knowledge a more democratic process: our explorations take place not only with fellow academics, but with practitioners and participants from different walks of life and work, and on an equal footing. However, we understand that there is still much work to be done in this area, and our concerns are that the current global situation may make this even harder, as borders close, educational systems are disrupted and an international economic downturn seems inevitable.

As with other established translanguaging research, the outputs of the projects reported in our book disturb the boundaries of languages, and those between languages and other communicative modes. Our aim though is to emphasise the relationships and processes, as well as the products, of collaborative research. By examining the relationships that are built for and through collaborative research we want to make the backstage visible, including the challenges and tensions inherent in this kind of research. By looking at collaborative processes we enable insights into the ownership of knowledge in terms of whose voices are heard and whose voices are therefore considered worth hearing. And a focus on the outcomes of collaboratively-produced research allows us to consider their tangible transformative potential, and what might follow.

We had intended to finish by saying how proud we are to have co-edited a book reporting on collaborative research activity: this, as we say in our introduction, presents a welcome challenge to the privileging of the single academic voice. However, writing as we are in May 2020, during a global pandemic and with mobility massively constrained, our thoughts turn to our own collaborative research. Our work together as editors was characterised by convivial meetings at the University of Leeds, continuing in the cafés around the campus. Now we are apart, and all working from home. We barely leave our towns, and easy international travel seems unlikely. All our collaborators and partners are in the same position, and in many cases hugely precarious. What does this mean for the future of collaborative research?

Emilee Moore Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Emilee.Moore@uab.cat @emooredeluca

Jessica Bradley University of Sheffield jessica.bradley@sheffield.ac.uk @JessMaryBradley

James Simpson University of Leeds j.e.b.simpson@education.leeds.ac.uk @jebsim

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Making Signs, Translanguaging Ethnographies edited by Ari Sherris and Elisabetta Adami. 

Starting a Dialogue between Social Semiotics and Complexity Theory

We recently published Making Signs, Translanguaging Ethnographies edited by Ari Sherris and Elisabetta Adami. In this post the editors introduce us to the book and its unique Bricolage and Talmudic sections.

Preparing this volume has been a work of encounters which gave way to layers of experiences and we hope is just one possible opening to a new way of thinking about how we make and interpret meaning. It started as a serendipitous encounter between the two of us, when we met once at a symposium on translanguaging and ethnography and later began conversations on the possibilities of crossing perspectives, in an attempt at starting a dialogue between social semiotics and complexity theory. The experiences of the volume’s contributors form additional layers at the core of this volume from ethnographic/documentary linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic landscape, and multimodality (broadly conceived). The volume is also a site of encounters among four theorists of what we envisage as among the most innovative and promising perspectives on research and activism across inclusive approaches to communication, language and education with a Bricolage piece asking Jan Blommaert, Ofelia García, Gunther Kress and Diane Larsen-Freeman to answer ten key questions and trace interrelations with each other’s viewpoints.

Besides the eye-opening preface by Jeff Bezemer and Gunther Kress, and the introduction written by us, the volume hosts seven chapters presenting empirical studies that relocate margins at the centre, through investigations of phenomena and settings that have been little explored so far, and by attempting various entanglements between approaches that have rarely been combined. Research of and through these uncharted entanglements allows the authors (and hopefully the readers) to show how observing and documenting domains of communication that are often neglected can not only problematize traditional ways of knowing, but also shed new light onto social interaction, meaning-making and human communication as a whole.

Finally, the volume attempts at stretching the boundaries of (the often too limiting) academic genres. It does so first and foremost in the Bricolage; the process of its making has been a wonderfully enriching enterprise, for us, the editors, and (we like to believe) for the four theorists too, who had never met on (screen and) paper before. Working with them at the Bricolage, we have not only had further proof of the immense intellectual value of Diane, Gunther, Jan and Ofelia, but also experienced the immensely humane, thoughtful and caring characters of the four. We hope that the Bricolage may be the first of a series opening a new genre enabling academic dialogue through joint forms of writing. A second genre innovation is in the final chapter of the book, in which we draw from the Talmudic tradition to construct commentaries to each of the empirical chapters that add additional layers, imagined next steps in meaning-making and interpretation. The commentaries ask themselves how these studies would be reframed and (re)investigated further by adopting a social semiotic and a complexity theory perspective. This, too, is an attempt to start a dialogue between two approaches that have good grounds for potential mutual integration and yet had not met until now. We hope this dialogue will continue further with those who read the book. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elisabetta Adami e.adami@leeds.ac.uk

Ari Sherris arieh.sherris@gmail.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert.