BAAL Book Prize Winner 2013

Laura accepting the BAAL Book Prize on behalf of Alastair Pennycook
Laura accepting the BAAL Book Prize on behalf of Alastair Pennycook

Looking back over 2013, it has been a very busy year for us at Multilingual Matters and we have published many exciting books.  However, one of the highlights of the year actually involves a book that we published last year, Alastair Pennycook’s Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places.  In September it was announced that the book had jointly won the annual British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Book Prize! A bit of excitement for our office and something for Alastair Pennycook to be really proud of.

9781847697639The book is comprised of a series of personal and narrative accounts and it explores aspects of travel, mobility and locality to ask how languages, cultures and people turn up in unexpected places. Among the materials and contexts included in the book are farewell addresses to British workers in colonial India, letters written from parents to their children at home, a Cornish anthem sung in South Australia, a country fair in rural Australia, and a cricket match played in the middle of the 19th century in south India. The result is a thought-provoking, original work and we feel it is a really worthy winner of the prize.

The prize was awarded at the annual BAAL conference (see Laura’s post on that here) and Alastair’s book now joins the 18 books which have won the award in the past – the full list of which is on the BAAL website.

BAAL 2013

This year Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh was host to the annual British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Conference so I headed north to run our stand and enjoy a few days in Scotland.

BAAL Conference 2013
BAAL Conference 2013

We’ve had a busy summer and published quite a number of books in the past few months so this was reflected at the conference: delegates streamed to our stand to browse the new publications which were making their first conference appearance – among the popular books were Blommaert’s Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes and Ramanathan’s Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship.

"Language and Mobility" by Alastair Pennycook - Joint Winner of the BAAL Book Prize 2013
“Language and Mobility” by Alastair Pennycook – Joint Winner of the BAAL Book Prize 2013

The welcome reception on the first evening was doubly exciting.  Not only was there a string quartet and whisky tasting for the delegates to enjoy, but also the announcement of the BAAL Book Prize 2013.  We were delighted for our author Alastair Pennycook, as his book Language and Mobility is the joint winner of this year’s award.  Sadly Alastair wasn’t present to celebrate his achievement, but I was delighted to accept the cheque and toast his success with some raspberry gin in his place!

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Apart from the conference I had fun exploring Edinburgh in the evenings.  The centre and castle were beautiful in the end of summer dusky light and I made a special trip to the Elephant Café where JK Rowling spent a lot of time when she was writing the first Harry Potter book.  To see the full selection of my photos from the trip please visit our Facebook page here.

Laura

Getting to #15

Series editor Alastair Pennycook writes about how the Critical Language and Literacy Studies series began and how his own book is the latest to be published in the series.

We have just published the 15th book in our Critical Language and Literacy Studies series, a fact that fills me with a mixture of pride, surprise, satisfaction, and exhaustion. It’s also with slightly mixed emotions – again some pride and surprise but also a bit of embarrassment and the usual insecurity, oh, and exhaustion too – that I should confess that book #15 in the series is my own, Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places (more of which later).

Given that the first book, Collaborative Research in Multilingual Classrooms (Denos, Toohey, Neilson and Waterstone) was only published in 2009, that’s a lot of books in a short period. Our goal was to bring different critical perspectives (with a focus on power and new ways of thinking about language) to studies of multilingualism, and to encourage work by new authors and from new contexts.

The series was not conceived as being based around normative critical approaches to linguistic diversity (focusing on the assumed benefits of multilingualism, for example, or orienting towards language maintenance), but instead aimed to open up questions of linguistic diversity in relation to broader political concerns. Several critical features therefore distinguish this series: Throughout, there is a strong focus on race, gender, class, colonialism, and other forms of disadvantage and discrimination, as well as a readiness to take on difficult topics. The ways these come together can be seen in books such as Laurel Kamada’s Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls: Being ‘Half’ in Japan, Christina Higgins and Bonny Norton’s edited Language and HIV/AIDS, Nasser, Berlin and Wong’s edited book, Examining Education, Media and Dialogue under Occupation: The Case of Palestine and Israel, or Andrea Sterzuk’s The Struggle for Legitimacy: Indigenized Englishes in Settler Schools.

Gender is a strong focus in Kamada’s book, as well as Ros Appleby’s ELT, Gender and International Development: Myths of Progress in a Neocolonial World, Julia Menard-Warwick’s Gendered Identities and Immigrant Language Learning or Christina Higgins’ English as a Local Language: Post-colonial Identities and Multilingual Practices. And watch out for another exciting book on the way: Kimie Takahashi’s Language Learning, Gender and Desire: Japanese Women on the Move.  Questions of class, poverty, access and literacy are given various treatments in Gregorio Hernandez-Zamora’s Decolonizing Literacy: Mexican Lives in the Era of Global Capitalism, Chris Stroud and Lionel Wee’s Style, Identity and Literacy: English in Singapore, and Inge Kral’s Talk, Text and Technology: Literacy and Social Practice in a Remote Indigenous Community.  Interwoven with these themes are significant concerns to do with immigration, indigenous communities, development, language ideologies, identity, technology, pedagogy and the media.

Although we have included books that critically explore the role of English in multilingual contexts, we’ve carefully avoided doing yet another book on the global spread of English or its varieties. Rather, when books have focused on English, central concerns have been on English as a local language in the multilingual contexts of East Africa (Higgins), language ideologies of English in Philip Seargeant’s The Idea of English in Japan: Ideology and the Evolution of a Global Language, English in relation to identity in China, in China and English: Globalisation and the Dilemmas of Identity (Lo Bianco, Orton and Gao, Eds) or English and globalization, Contending with Globalization in World Englishes (Saxena & Omoniyi, eds).  We have also tried to ensure that all the books in the series are theoretically strong, well researched, and, crucially, readable.

We have aimed to achieve a fairly wide coverage of contexts, including Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, East Timor, Israel/Palestine, India, Uganda, Burkina Faso, South Africa, West Africa, Iran, Bulgaria, China, Japan and Singapore, as well as indigenous communities in Australia and Canada and immigrant communities in the USA. Clearly, there’s scope for much more diversity and wider coverage.  One final aspect of this series to which we have given serious attention is the prefaces. Taking the view that prefaces are far more than introductions, and noting that they are a fairly unregulated genre, we have worked hard on the prefaces as collaborative texts, and have taken the opportunity not only to locate the books within a wider field but also to draw attention to important points about critical approaches to language and literacy that matter to us.

So, finally, back to book #15, Language and Mobility: Unexpected PlacesI set out to do several things: to explore the themes of languages turning up in unexpected places (and why things may be unexpected), and language and mobility; to try out different styles of writing – there are travel stories, personal anecdotes, poems (not by me, thank heavens), and personal and familial history (such as my own exploration of my grandparents’ lives in India).

How well all this works, whether this hangs together, whether it appears indulgent or superficial, too linked to personal and affective histories, or whether these connections between the personal and political by contrast shed more light than other approaches to these topics, will be for the reader to decide. But I’ve used this opportunity to write about a range of topics of interest to me, including colonial India, intercultural communication, native speakers, cricket and Cornish. I hope readers find some thought-provoking ideas here, and if not, there are 14 other books in this series to enjoy, and more on the way, including upcoming books on linguistic landscapes in Antwerp (the first book in the series to focus on a European context, though a focus on the linguistic landscape of any such European city also points in many non-European directions), domestic workers from the Philippines  (bringing together issues of gender, migration, class, language policy and lots more), and literacy practices in West Africa (literacies, languages, graffiti, and many things besides). Stay tuned.

Alastair Pennycook