New Series: Translanguaging in Theory and Practice

This month we are publishing the very first book in our brand new series, Translanguaging in Theory and Practice. In this post the editors, Angel Lin, Yuen Yi Lo, Saskia Van Viegen and Li Wei, introduce us to the series. 

The first book in the series, “Transmodal Communications”, edited by Margaret R. Hawkins

With the translanguaging movement slowly taking root in academic and education communities in the past two decades, it is timely to build on and extend both the theory and practice in translanguaging, to address and respond to both theoretical and pedagogical challenges. This new book series aims to publish work that highlights the dynamic use of an individual’s linguistic repertoire and challenges the socially and politically defined boundaries of languages and their hierarchy. Connecting with current efforts toward anti-racist, anti-oppressive and decolonizing approaches across disciplines, the series underscores relations among language and sociopolitical, -cultural and -historic conditions to advance critical understandings and the situated nature of knowledge production.

The series came about through an interest in engaging with a translanguaging theory of language, as Angel often says, ‘to not only use or consume the theory but to contribute ongoing theorization and engagement with TL’.  Going beyond language to consider trans-semiotizing and the entire assemblage of mean-making and communication, scholars and practitioners alike are pushing conventional boundaries to open new spaces of inquiry in classrooms, communities and other domains. We are excited and enlivened by these possibilities and wanted to contribute to providing access to and engagement with such work.

We invite research from across disciplines by both established and emergent researchers in multifarious settings, including everyday use, educational, digital and workplace contexts. It will also actively welcome and solicit studies on translanguaging in contexts where English is not the mainstream language and where other modalities and semiotic resources take prominence over speech and writing. The series is transdisciplinary and encourages scholars to publish empirical research on translanguaging, especially that which aims to disrupt power relations, create new identities and communities, to engage in the discussion of translanguaging theories and pedagogies, and/or to help the field of translanguaging consolidate its scholarship.

If you would like to submit a book proposal for this series, please email Anna Roderick.

An Invitation into the Global ELT Landscape of Transnational Pracademics

This month we published Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching edited by Rashi Jain, Bedrettin Yazan and Suresh Canagarajah. In this post the editors introduce the book.

Globalization is truly changing the world as we know it as cross-border migrations of people become increasingly common. International migrations are also no longer unidirectional, nor entail the giving up of ‘old’ affiliations in order to acquire ‘new’ ones. Many transnational migrants maintain deep connections with their ‘home countries’ while simultaneously constructing new ones with their ‘host countries’ (Levitt, 2004), while others transcend these static nation-state boundaries entirely to navigate the “liminal spaces between communities, languages, and nations” (Canagarajah, 2018, p. 41).

The field of second and foreign language pedagogy, especially, includes transnational practitioners with complex personal-professional histories that, in turn, impact how these practitioners construct their identities and engage in practices across diverse contexts. TESOL practitioners also work frequently with students who are migrants themselves. These participants – language learners, teachers, teacher educators, administrators – may already be engaged in reimagining ‘home’ as an idea that is beyond a geographical location (Jain, 2021), as well as problematizing traditional notions around ‘center’ and ‘periphery’, ‘native’ and ‘nonnative’, ‘researcher’ and ‘practitioner’, and ‘practitioner’ and ‘academic’.

As proud co-editors of Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching, we envision the term ‘practitioner’ as encompassing all those who engage in the practices of TESOL, including but not limited to those who teach English language learners of all ages and across diverse contexts, those who educate teachers and administrators planning to pursue careers in TESOL, those who research TESOL contexts, and those who theorize about these contexts. Further, these practices are not mutually exclusive and by engaging in different practices within (and beyond) TESOL, many dynamic practitioners and academics create areas of overlap, span boundaries, and become brokers between different communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), thus also essentially becoming transnational pracademics – an equitable amalgamation of the practitioner and academic identities inhabiting transnational spaces.

As we move more deeply into the 21st century, transnational TESOL practitioners are thus creatively negotiating ‘liminal’ spaces, charting new trajectories, crafting new practices and pedagogies, constructing new identities, and reconceptualizing ELT contexts. In the process, the transnational landscape of TESOL (Jain, Yazan, & Canagarajah, 2021) is being agentively changed from within – as the contributions that comprise the volume illustrate. This edited volume is thus both a critical and an accessible compilation of transnational narratives. Too often, scholarly publications tend to be inaccessible, in terms of both content and scholarship, to a large part of the very populations theorized about. We have, instead, endeavored to create a space for voices that truly move the field forward in ways that are approachable for all participants.

Our volume serves as a community space where narratives of transnational TESOL practitioners and participants may find a permanent home, with narratives ranging from autoethnographies to self-study reports and from theoretical pieces to empirical accounts. We are thrilled to invite you to read the volume with its rich, diverse narratives and perspectives spanning the global ELT landscape.

Rashi Jain, Bedrettin Yazan and Suresh Canagarajah

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education edited by Nathanael Rudolph, Ali Fuad Selvi and Bedrettin Yazan.

Plurilingualism and (In)competence in Deaf Education

This month we published Critical Perspectives on Plurilingualism in Deaf Education edited by Kristin Snoddon and Joanne C. Weber. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

This book was inspired by what we see as an unbalanced revitalization of sign languages. Around the world, national sign languages are increasingly popular as second language courses in schools and postsecondary contexts. At the same time, their learning and use by deaf children is in decline in countries that previously afforded the congregation of deaf children in some form, whether in special education settings or (more rarely) bilingual education classrooms and schools where a national sign language and written/spoken language are languages of instruction.

In many global North countries, this decline in deaf children’s learning of sign language is due to their medicalization in a framework of hearing screening and early intervention and policies that restrict families’ learning of sign language when a child receives a cochlear implant. In both the North and South, however, the way that governments and policy-makers have interpreted the tenets of inclusive education has meant the dismantling of deaf schools and other settings where deaf children can gather. Deaf people’s gathering inside and outside the classroom is critical to the transmission and maintenance of sign languages, even when teachers in these settings do not use a national sign language. Without sign languages, deaf children are at risk of language deprivation, which leads to poor educational and health outcomes.

However, there are new directions in plurilingual education for deaf children and youth in terms of classroom pedagogy, programming, and curricula. This research is driven by deaf ontologies, or what deaf people do with language. There is a need to further explore what concepts such as plurilingualism and translanguaging mean in the context of deaf people’s self-determination and empowerment.

Hannah Arendt (1961) wrote that in spite of efforts to build a new world through the education of children, children are introduced to a pre-existing world that has been constructed by those who came before us. Our book chronicles the history of education for deaf children and the suppression of sign languages in several contexts, including the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, and Canada.

As this book went to press, both of us learned that the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan, where we respectively live, are rolling out American Sign Language (ASL) curricula and classes for hearing high school students. At the same time, deaf children and youth across Canada are unlikely to receive broad support for learning in ASL via early intervention systems or schools. It is in these contexts and others that new directions in plurilingual sign language-medium education are needed, driven by the agency of signing deaf people.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might like The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages edited by Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray and Rachel L. McKee.

A Multilingual Environment on Study Abroad – Barrier or Benefit?

This month we published Language Learning in Study Abroad edited by Wenhao Diao and Emma Trentman. In this post the editors explain how the multilingual environment of study abroad can be beneficial.

Study abroad has been a central part of our lives for the last two decades, starting with our own experiences studying abroad and working with study abroad students, and culminating with researching and leading study abroad programs ourselves, some of which are described in our chapters in this book.

As language learners, we were sold on the promise of the magical linguistic gains we’d make during study abroad through the immersion experience, and saw these same dreams reflected in the expectations of our research participants. Yet, as we discovered ourselves, and as the chapters in this book demonstrate across a variety of locations and programs, study abroad is usually not an experience of monolingual immersion. Both language learners and the contexts in which they study are inherently multilingual. All too often, this multilingualism, and especially the presence of Global English, is framed as an obstacle to language learning, as learners struggle to make friends in the local language, negotiate racialized and gendered experiences, and generally wonder how to learn a language in a multilingual environment.

Yet, what if the multilingual environment is not a challenge to overcome with language pledges and other program interventions, but one in which language learners can use their full linguistic repertoires to expand them? And what if the multilingual realities are what historicize and contextualize the study abroad experience in post-colonial societies, neoliberal economies, and cultural discourses that position certain language learners as non-legitimate speakers of their target language(s)? The chapters in this book detail how language learners in study abroad locations throughout the world use a variety of strategies to gain an awareness of the cultural nuances of being and becoming multilingual. Some chapters also demonstrate the consequences for learners who hold on to their monolingual language ideologies. The implications of this mindset shift are many, particularly for the context of teaching languages to English speakers from wealthy Anglophone countries that are often viewed as centers of economic globalization.  Rather than focusing on how to make a multilingual environment more monolingual, or advising learners to avoid compatriots and English speakers, we can encourage learners to engage in translanguaging practices and negotiate their multilingual identities in ways that expand their linguistic repertoires and develop a critical multilingual awareness. This focus has the additional benefit of recognizing the translanguaging and identity negotiation skills of minoritized students, both of which are often overlooked in the language classroom.

We would like to thank the authors of the chapters in this volume, Uju Anya, Lucien Brown, Janice McGregor, Lourdes Ortega, Tracy Quan, Jamie A. Thomas, and Brandon Tullock, for their insightful contributions. It is our hope that this volume will inspire study abroad researchers and practitioners to help students develop skills to negotiate language learning in multilingual environments.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality edited by Martin Howard.

At the Crossroads of English-medium Instruction and Translanguaging

We recently published English-Medium Instruction and Translanguaging edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Zhongfeng Tian and Jeanette Toth. In this post the editors explain how the book came about.

As language educators involved with teacher training, the three of us share an interest in how language use is addressed at all levels of education, but especially in nominally monolingual contexts like English-medium instruction (EMI) programmes. While languages have traditionally been kept separate in teaching and learning, the more fluid view of languages and language use found in translanguaging has gained traction among researchers as well as teachers (e.g., García, 2009; Paulsrud, Rosén, Straszer, & Wedin, 2017; Tian, Aghai, Sayer, & Schissel, 2020). Research in these publications has shown us that the scope of translanguaging is more than a pedagogy that involves alternating languages of input and output in bilingual classrooms. Beyond pedagogical practices, translanguaging offers a transformative ideological shift that both challenges linguistic hierarchies and promotes social justice, offering implications for what may be considered legitimate languages for learning.

When Zhongfeng was working with his PhD research on translanguaging in bilingual education in the US, he realized there was very little published research on translanguaging in EMI programmes. A quick search online led him to BethAnne, who was conducting research on EMI and translanguaging on the other side of the world in Sweden. After months of exchanging ideas for an edited volume to address a gap in the field, they invited Jeanette, with her expertise on EMI in Swedish primary schools, to join them. Our editorial team was in place and the book project was launched!

Our aim with the volume was to bring together a wide range of studies from different contexts and educational levels, and the response was overwhelming. The many interesting contributions revealed the quality of research on EMI and translanguaging taking place across the world. We are especially excited that several underrepresented contexts are included in our volume, with empirical studies from African contexts including Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa; several Asian contexts including Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, and Turkey; and the European higher education context in Italy. In their chapters, the authors have included some of the best examples of translanguaging to be found, illustrating how teachers and students make use of their diverse linguistic repertoires to make meaning and facilitate content learning at the crossroads of English-medium instruction and translanguaging. In addition, the volume offers contributions that question the English-only ideologies often prevalent in EMI programmes, and instead consider how translanguaging may disrupt English hegemony. We know this volume will be of interest to researchers and teachers alike.

Finally, we must say that we are grateful to have been able to work with such an outstanding group of international scholars – although most we have never even met in person. However, our common passion for understanding the complexities of EMI and translanguaging has made them valued collaborators. As for us three editors, BethAnne and Jeanette still hope Zhongfeng (now a PhD) will make it to Sweden one day so we can actually meet in person as well!

Jeanette Toth, Zhongfeng Tian and BethAnne Paulsrud

For more information about this book, please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin.

Representing Ethnographic Research as Drama

This month we published Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post the authors explain why they chose to present their research as a play script.

Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama is an outcome of a large, team linguistic ethnographic research project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities (TLANG). As part of the research project we conducted ethnographic observations in an Advice and Advocacy service in a Chinese community centre in a city in the Midlands of England. We were interested in people’s communicative practices in a context where clients needed help to negotiate bureaucratic systems related to welfare benefits, health, education, insurance, immigration status, and so on.

Following comprehensive analysis of data, we produced a rich, detailed research report. However, we were not convinced that academic writing alone was adequate for the task of representation of social practice. Although we are thoroughly invested in the tradition of writing ethnography, we recognise a need to reach beyond its limitations. With this in mind, we chose to represent the life of the Advice and Advocacy service as Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama, which takes an arts-based approach to the representation of research outcomes.

In linguistic ethnography we typically observe, and ultimately explain, the lives of others. But we wanted to move beyond explanation of cultural life, which can be reductive. We chose to represent the social practices of the Chinese community centre as ethnographic drama because it is a form which by definition resists explanation. It was not our intention to explain or make meaningful the lives of Chinese or Chinese-heritage people in the UK. We were instead concerned with all aspects of communication.

The community centre proved to be a rich site at which to observe the communicative practices with which advice workers render the world more just for their clients. We peered into the hidden spaces where, day after day, mediation, translation, and interpretation enable those with limited capital to gain access to resources which are otherwise elusive, and often out of reach. Through ethnographic drama we did not attempt to explain these cultural practices, but we made them visible.

Ethnographic drama enables us to show the complexities of interactions in which Advice and Advocacy workers are essential figures who keep the city moving. Beyond making social space more habitable, they have the potential to make life better for those who come to them for help. In our observation of the advisors’ practice, more than anything we see people concerned to improve the lives of their clients. In the nooks and crannies of social life they keep the superdiverse city moving. In showing the world rather than telling it, ethnographic drama offers a representation of social life that has the potential to enhance, heighten, and expand understanding, and to bring ethnography to wider audiences.

We are very grateful to Mutlilingual Matters for their generosity and vision in enabling us to take off creatively, turning field notes, transcripts, and other ethnographic material into drama that shows communicative practice in an often-concealed part of social life in the superdiverse city.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous book, Voices of a City Market

Q&A with Clare Mar-Molinero, Editor of “Researching Language in Superdiverse Urban Contexts”

We recently published Researching Language in Superdiverse Urban Contexts edited by Clare Mar-Molinero. In this post the editor answers some questions about her research and the inspiration behind the book.

How did you become interested in this field of study?

As a sociolinguist I’ve always been interested in multilingualism and its impact on society but initially I studied this through my interests in the Spanish-speaking world. More recently, however, and inspired by the work of people such as Jan Blommaert, Ben Rampton, Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese, amongst many others, I started to think more about the impact of migration to urban centres particularly, and also realized that there was much to explore and investigate on my own doorstep in Southampton.

What was the initial inspiration for the book?

This book continues this focus on multilingualism, migration and urban contexts but shifts my emphasis to the research methods we use to explore these. A conference at the University of Southampton that I organized (funded by the MEITS/OWRI/AHRC) invited contributions and discussion round these themes and paved the foundations for the book’s chapters.

As you compiled your book, did anything in the research particularly surprise or intrigue you?

As the contributions developed it became very clear that there was a strong consensus and focus from all of us on the growing understanding of translanguaging, the importance of (self) reflexivity as researchers, the multi-modality of linguistic communication (and therefore the usefulness of linguistic landscapes) and the core role of the researcher-researched relationship.

What is your next research project?

I am hoping in the medium term to consolidate many years of working with Mexican academics (many as former PhD students) to put together a volume discussing language policies in Mexico – the role of global English, of neoliberal education policy (or the current AMLO regime’s claim to move away from this), the integration of returnee migrants and their language practices, the recognition (or not) of the indigenous languages, and how this all varies hugely across a very large and diverse country, with the ever-present dominating shadow of their US neighbor.

I also continue to have a strong urge to explore and research the challenges of multilingual practices in contemporary football: How is it managed? What issues does it present? What wider lessons does the phenomenon tell us about how multilinguals work together, etc etc. I have tried to study this with our local premiership team, with various false starts, as access for the researcher is difficult and often impossible, not helped by the constant changing circumstances of owners, players and managers, all of different nationalities, coming and going.

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?

I’ve indulged my love of magical realism and read Isabel Allende’s latest novel, A Long Petal of the Sea, which also centers round other of my passions: the Spanish Civil War and the Pinochet era in Chile. It turned out not to be one of her more magical realist novels, but gripping nonetheless. I’m also struggling to read Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, which should tick many of my interest boxes: travelling across the US, the scandal of the US immigrations treatment of Latin American migrant children, an interest in ‘soundscapes’, etc, etc. Despite many rave reviews, I’m finding it hard going, though, and maybe over self-conscious.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research edited by Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias.

A Glimpse Into The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education

This month we published The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education edited by Nathanael Rudolph, Ali Fuad Selvi and Bedrettin Yazan. In this post Nathanael introduces the main themes of his book.

This book is premised on the idea that the dynamic negotiation of identity and community membership is a negotiation of positionality: of who individuals, and others around them, “are/are not,” and “can” and/or “should” be or become. Language education is inseparable from these negotiations, shaping and shaped by contextualized, sociohistorical notions of “truth,” “correctness,” “normativity,” “value,” and “change.” In other words, language education can impose, perpetuate, problematize, challenge, and reify dominant, essentialized, and idealized ways of being and belonging, which create, limit, and eliminate space for diversity.

Critical dialogue in language education (purportedly) seeks to account for the complexity of negotiated identity and interaction characterizing communities and classrooms therein, as well as to address manifested privilege-marginalization that stakeholders encounter in their negotiations of being and belonging. There is no doubt, however, that “criticality” is far from uniform, as it is also a site of ideological struggle over how diversity, (in)equity and inclusivity are imagined and attended to. There are competing conceptualizations of privilege-marginalization, for example: what they are, who experiences them and how, where, and why, and how inequity might be addressed. This is important to understand, as these differences affect the meaning scholars pour into (and how they interpret) terms and concepts relating to interaction, such as “translanguaging”: what it “is,” why and how it might be valued, and who can, should and does engage in it.

We have noticed that critical scholarship pertaining to language education generally concerns itself with problematizing essentialized and idealized nativeness in a particular language (e.g. English), and that such work generally explicitly and implicitly presumes that identity, experience, knowledge, and skills can and should be apprehended categorically (e.g. “native”/“non-native”; “local non-native”/ “non-local [other]”). The majority of such work is detached from broader communal negotiations of identity and interaction, and the transdisciplinary scholarship and social movements which have documented such negotiations, however, leaving a) the contextualized, sociohistorical, local-global origin and nature of such idealized nativeness partially or wholly unaccounted for and unaddressed, and b) the voices of individuals whose identities and experiences transcend such categories, marginalized or silenced.

In our call for proposals and throughout the editing process, we encouraged contributors to envision a criticality that is, “academically transdisciplinary, decentralized, sociohistorically contextualized and connected to the community in which it is situated, and for one that prompts individuals toward self-reflexive attention to positionality; to what frames our seeing (Lather, 1993)” (Rudolph, 2019a: 105). We couldn’t have been happier with, or more inspired by, what resulted.

In Chapter 1, for example, Syed Abdul Manan, Maya Khemlani David, Liaquat Ali Channa, and Francisco Perlas Dumanig, examine English-only language policies and practices in Pakistan, which neglect the pluri- and translingual complexity of society and marginalize the identities of teachers and students. Meike Wernicke (Chapter 2) explores how ‘nonfrancophone’ teachers of French in Canada negotiate personal-professional identity when wrestling with essentialized and idealized notions of nativeness in their workplaces. In Chapter 7, Naashia Mohamed shares a Maldivian teacher’s lived experiences negotiating positionality in the Maldives, during her transition from English teacher to a university instructor of Dhivehi, the national language. Naashia discusses how her participant, Hawwa, initially feels relegated to a second-class occupation, experiences a shift in how she views the role and value of Dhivehi and herself as a professional. April Salerno and Elena Andrei (Chapter 8) present a dialoguing framework for teachers and language teacher educators to explore their language identities and how those identities shape their language-teaching practices, with a focus on their experiences as self-described bilingual (Romanian and English) teacher educators. In Chapter 13, Sarah Hopkyns explores Emirati university students’ lived experiences negotiating positionality as speakers of Arabic and English within their families, schools, and in Emirati society at large.

We hope readers are inspired by the volume! For those interested in exploring the themes more, please feel free to contact Nathanael Rudolph at nrudolph@kindai.ac.jp.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics by Phil Hiver and Ali H. Al-Hoorie.

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. 

How Can We Represent Social Life in Ethnographic Writing?

This month we published Voices of a City Market: An Ethnography by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post the authors explain how they put the book together.

Which differences are salient to people when they interact in contexts of social and linguistic diversity? How are these differences made resourceful in communication as people draw on their biographies, histories, education, language backgrounds, and economic capital? We examined these questions by conducting ethnographic observations in the Bull Ring market in Birmingham, as part of a four-year AHRC-funded research project, ‘Translation and Translanguaging. Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities’.

In the market we observed interactions between butchers and their customers as they haggled, bartered, argued, and joked. We wrote field notes, audio-recorded service interactions, interviewed market traders, took photographs, video-recorded, and collected messages on WeChat and WhatsApp. Communication in the market was characterized by translanguaging, an orientation to difference in which people were willing to make use of whatever resources were available to make themselves understood. Not that everything in the market hall was convivial – everyday sexism and casual racism also raised their heads.

The material we collected was carefully analysed. Transcripts and translations were pored over and annotated, audio-recordings listened to, video-recordings repeatedly watched, online and digital messages scrutinized, photographs examined, discussions held. Reports were authored, academic articles published. However, content is only half of the story. We were concerned that conventional academic writing may not adequately represent the complexity and richness of the discourse of the superdiverse market. So we stripped away analysis, explanation, and exegesis, leaving the voices of traders, shoppers, and researchers to speak for themselves. Rather than structure the ethnography around big ideas and grand theories, we represented the world of the market as an assemblage of ethnographic material, a polyphonic collage of everyday voices and social practices.

In the book the life of the market is framed by a discussion in which a cast of nine characters debates the representation of social life. Two butchers, a photographer, a professor, a dramaturg, an entrepreneur, a researcher, a documentary novelist, and a poet rehearse many of the debates that surfaced in our research team over more than four years. Referring to the artistic production of the world of the market, their voices are thoughtful, opinionated, generous, biased, indignant, and collaborative. The same characters return at the end of the book to reflect on the text.

The assemblage of ethnographic material creates a polyphony of beliefs, commitments, and ideologies. The form of the text, at once poetic and scientific, represents the fragmented yet orderly cacophony of the market. Artistic form, argues Bakhtin (1984: 43), does not shape already prepared and found content, “but rather permits content to be found and seen for the first time”. In the terms of photographer Dorothea Lange (1965), calling attention to the mundane, the everyday, the familiar, enables people to see, as if for the first time, what they have passed by a thousand times. We hope to achieve something of this sort in Voices of a City Market: An Ethnography.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (Edited and translated by C. Emerson). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Lange, D. (1965) Under the Trees. KQED for National Educational Television (NET).

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Decolonising Multilingualism by Alison Phipps.