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"Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts"

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  • Donald Z. Osborn
    FYI from the Linguist list... Literacy is apparently the focus of only one chapter (8), but the summary does not indicate which language or if in more than
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2004
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      FYI from the Linguist list... Literacy is apparently the focus of only one
      chapter (8), but the summary does not indicate which language or if in more
      than one. Nevertheless, this seems to have some relevant perspectives. DZO

      Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2004 12:07:37 -0400 (EDT)
      From: Marian Sloboda <maslo@...>
      Subject: Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts


      EDITOR: Pavlenko, Aneta; Blackledge, Adrian
      TITLE: Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts
      SERIES: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
      PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
      YEAR: 2004
      Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-456.html


      Marian Sloboda, Charles University, Prague

      INTRODUCTION

      The book under review is a collection of contributions unified by one
      theoretical approach. The approach, which the editors expose in the
      Introduction, is broad but coherent. It is rooted in contributors' shared
      interest in interconnections between identity, languages, power, and social
      justice. Contributions to the volume elaborate, in one or the other way, on the
      fact that different languages, discourses and identities are not socially equal
      and equally empowering. The approach chosen is applied to a number of different
      multilingual settings, in which, however, English figures most often as one of
      the languages.

      The volume contains 11 chapters plus Introduction, written by 12 experienced
      scholars and younger researchers. All of them come from English-speaking
      countries, but they are not always of Anglo-American origin. It is interesting
      and certainly welcomed that 10 of them are woman and only two men, which is a
      reverted proportion in comparison to what has been usual so far. The
      contributors are specialists in bilingualism often with connection to
      education/pedagogy (cf. the book's publication in the Bilingual Education and
      Bilingualism series). Nevertheless, not all chapters show connection to
      education, as we will see in the contents description, which follows.

      CONTENTS DESCRIPTION

      In Introduction, ''New theoretical approaches to the study of negotiation of
      identities in multilingual contexts,'' ANETA PAVLENKO and ADRIAN BLACKLEDGE
      review briefly two approaches: sociopsychological and interactional
      sociolinguistic, and continue with a more extensive exposition of
      poststructuralist approaches, one of which the contributors advocate in the
      present volume (drawing, e.g., on Bourdieu 1991). They view identities as
      ''social, discursive, and narrative options offered by a particular society in
      a specific time and place to which individuals and groups appeal in an attempt
      to self-name, to self- characterize, and to claim social spaces and social
      prerogatives'' (p. 19). The authors add the concept of positioning, which has
      been originally designed for a conversational phenomenon (Davies - Harre 1990),
      but the authors extend it to all discursive practice. Bakhtinian metaphorical
      concept of 'voice' (Bakhtin 1981) has been extended as well and, as one of the
      contributors (Jennifer Miller) mentions, it has also acquired more literal,
      though still symbolic, meaning. Its audability and one's right to speak and be
      heard determine possibilities of her/his (self-)identification and identity
      negotiation (p. 293). NEGOTIATION OF IDENTITIES is understood here as ''an
      interplay between reflective positioning, i.e. self- representation, and
      interactive positioning, whereby others attempt to position particular
      individuals or groups'' (p. 20). Negotiation ''may also take place 'within'
      individuals [i.e. between Bakhtinian voices], resulting in changes in
      self-representation'' (p. 21). The authors distinguish three types of
      identities: imposed (non-negotiable in particular time and place), assumed
      (accepted but not negotiated), and negotiable (which may be contested by groups
      and individuals). The contributors to this volume focus on the identities
      contested by individuals and groups in resistance to others or existing
      discourses. They adopt a larger sociohistorical perspective on identities.

      In Chapter 1, '''The making of an American': Negotiation of identities at the
      turn of the twentieth century,'' ANETA PAVLENKO shows and explains differences
      between 12 memoirs of European immigrants to U.S.A. at the turn of the 20th
      century and present-time immigrants. The former used rhetorical means that
      succeeded in making the American identity negotiable for new arrivals to the US
      and they did not foreground linguistic identities; the latter, on the contrary,
      express experiences of language discrimination and difficulties with identity
      negotiation, which stems from tensions between other- and self-identification.

      In Chapter 2, ''Constructions of identity in political discourse in multilingual
      Britain,'' ADRIAN BLACKLEDGE examines an intertextual 'chain of discourses'
      (Fairclough 1995), that is, 'dialogical network' (Nekvapil - Leudar 2002) - but
      he does not work with the latter concept - in which network actors (British
      state officials) contribute to a change in the official language ideology. The
      chain starts with news on 'race riots' in northern England, and ends in issuing
      the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act in 2002, which states that, inter
      alia, also spouses of British citizens are obliged to prove sufficient
      knowledge of English (or Welsh or Gaelic) in order to acquire British
      citizenship. Drawing on Irvine and Gal (2000), Blackledge shows how language
      was indexed to the nature of its speakers, understanding English indexed to
      good race relations, and Britain 'reimagined' as a monolingual state.

      In Chapter 3, ''Negotiating between 'bourge' and 'racaille': Verlan as a youth
      identity practice in suburban Paris,'' MEREDITH DORAN deals with Verlan, a
      variety widely known and spoken by French urban youth, which originated among
      North-African immigrants in France. Based on participant observation in Les
      Salieres (an ethnically heterogeneous town near Paris), interviews and records
      of natural speech, the chapter discusses Verlan as both means and product of
      construction and negotiation of identities of local youth groups.

      In Chapter 4, ''Black Deaf or Deaf Black? Being black and deaf in Britain,''
      MELISSA JAMES and BENCIE WOLL follow the life history lines of 21 deaf
      respondents and their identity development which under their specific living
      conditions (in their family, school and employment) resulted in acceptation of
      the identity of Black and Deaf (''to be deaf is to have a hearing loss; to be
      Deaf is to belong to a community with its own language and culture,'' p. 125).
      The authors describe the respondents' identity choices based on personal
      experiences of interactions with black, deaf and other people, and then dwell
      on the respondents' perceptions of being Black, Deaf, Black Deaf or Deaf
      Black.

      In Chapter 5, ''Mothers and mother tongue: Perspectives on self-construction by
      mothers of Pakistani heritage,'' JEAN MILLS presents results of her analysis of
      semi-structured interviews which she carried out with 10 mothers of Pakistani
      origin who live in Britain. Although the title of her contribution highlights
      the category 'mother tongue,' Mills discusses this emic concept in a wider net
      of linkages between the respondents' selves and meanings they have constructed
      in the interviews for all their languages. The respondents put language issues
      to close connection with the issues of mothering - esp. the question of being a
      'good mother' in the eyes of their relatives and their own.

      In Chapter 6, ''The politics of identity, representation, and the discourses of
      self-identification: Negotiating the periphery and the center,'' FRANCES
      GIAMPAPA first explains what the 'center' (prototype) of Canadian Italian
      identity is. Then she focuses on self-positioning and identity negotiation of
      three young respondents of Italian origin who diverge from the 'center' in some
      way and, therefore, find themselves on the 'periphery'. The important role of
      respondents' languages in situationally variable self- positioning is examined
      in the workplace and peer-group settings. Interview and questionnaire data
      served as the material for analysis.

      In Chapter 7, ''Alice doesn't live here anymore: Foreign language learning and
      identity reconstruction,'' CELESTE KINGINGER reconstructs the dramatic language
      learning trajectory of a young American working-class woman. The respondent's
      story, as retold by Kinginger on the basis of interview and written data, shows
      the reader how a language identity, in this case the identity of French as
      constructed by the respondent, evolved during her life in the United States,
      stay in France, and life again in the US. The chapter also manifests the
      cohesion of language learning processes with biographical, psychological, and
      social facts.

      In Chapter 8, ''Intersections of literacy and construction of social
      identities,'' BENEDICTA EGBO discusses findings of her research of two rural
      communities in Nigeria. On the basis of participant observation, focus-group
      discussion, and interviews with 36 female members of the communities, she
      presents differences between the self-perceptions of literate vs. non-literate
      respondents. She concentrates on bonds between literacy in general, being
      literate woman in the researched communities in particular, gender, and power
      in the community as well as home. Egbo concludes that literacy, if assisted by
      other factors, empowers marginalized Nigerian women.

      In Chapter 9, ''Multilingual writers and the struggle for voice in academic
      discourse,'' SURESH CANAGARAJAH, having analyzed texts of six multilingual
      students and experienced academicians, shows how they construct their voice
      (''a manifestation of one's agency in discourse through the means of
      language,'' p. 267) in coping with dominant discourses. The author describes
      several strategies of relating one's self to the discourses: avoidance (of
      negotiation with them), transposition (of features of one discourse to another
      and vice versa), accommodation (to a dominant discourse), opposition (to a
      dominant discourse), and appropriation (of a dominant discourse to one's own
      agenda). Finally, the author assesses the strategies in a comparative,
      relational way.

      In Chapter 10, ''Identity and language use: The politics of speaking ESL in
      Schools,'' JENNIFER MILLER shifts the reader's attention to the social
      conditions of negotiation of identities. She examines the situation of several
      Chinese and Bosnian students at an Australian high school who use English as
      their second language (ESL). Miller shows that the environment does not open to
      them the same possibilities to speak and be heard in this language in
      comparison to each other and their native-English-speaking classmates. Their
      audability (as well as visibility) is a key factor in their
      (self-)positioning.

      In Chapter 11, ''Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a
      Japanese public elementary school,'' YASUKO KANNO, following esp. Cummins
      (2000), criticizes 'coercive relations of power' between the teacher and pupil,
      in which the teacher imposes values on the pupil, irrespective of the
      background and personality of the latter. Kanno advocates 'collaborative
      relations of power,' in which the teacher respects her/his pupil. In the school
      analyzed both these relations occur mixed: teachers show respect for minority
      children's cultural background and L1 but they do not support it in contrast
      to
      Japanese, knowledge of which is a primary goal of instruction. As a result, the
      children undergo L1 attrition and assimilation.

      EVALUATION

      I would like to elaborate here on three topics, namely, negotiation, discourse,
      and discursivity, and the extent, to which they are represented in this volume,
      which remains excellent in spite of any criticism that may be raised against
      some of its aspects.

      The definition of 'negotiation of identities' in the Introduction sets up some
      expectations as regards what the subsequent chapters might be about. In reading
      them, the reader may arrive at the impression that some of the chapters are
      rather about something else than negotiation. They are still excellent and very
      interesting in themselves indeed, but might fit better elsewhere. For instance,
      Egbo's chapter (Ch. 8) is a stimulating, noteworthy and important text, but I
      have failed to see where is negotiation in it (except on p. 262). Blackledge's
      chapter (Ch. 2), to give another example, does not foreground identity
      negotiation as such. There is intertextuality operating with identities there,
      but negotiation presupposes two voices 'speaking' discordantly (cf. definition
      above and on p. 20) and the voices of the different texts analyzed are not in
      disagreement (although there is some _within_ one text, see below). Chapter 7
      by Kinginger, which differs from the other chapters in more respects, is
      virtually a happy-ending story of a young working-class American woman who
      dreams of learning French. The chapter is reminiscent of the work on
      linguistic (auto)biographies (e.g. Franceschini 2003 and forthcoming, Nekvapil
      2003), but it has not its academic focus and is rather a paraphrase of the
      respondent's story with the analytic component suppressed. (Nevertheless, an
      asset one can see in this chapter is that it provides valuable material for
      comparison in the form of a convincing and impressive story of intertwining of
      language learning with the learner's biography, personal social-life experience
      and social stereotypes.) Thus, on the one hand, there is this sort of
      non-prototypical analysis of identity negotiation in the present volume; on the
      other hand, there are also analyses that can be considered really prototypical
      in this respect. In my opinion, Giampapa's, Canagarajah's, Pavlenko's, and
      James' and Woll's contributions (Ch. 6, 9, 1 and 4) represent the latter case.
      Miller's chapter (Ch. 10), although it does not have its primary focus on
      identity negotiation, is remarkable for that it focuses on conditions of
      negotiation.

      It seems that there is variable emphasis on various aspects of the phenomenon of
      identity negotiation in the present volume. Three aspects might be discerned
      here: CONSTRUCTION (emphasis on identity creation), MODIFICATION (emphasis on
      identity reconstruction), and NEGOTIATION as such (emphasis on joint
      creation/modification/ascription by at least two more or less discordant
      voices, intertextually or intratextually). In Doran's chapter (Ch. 3), for
      example, there is a switch in the place between excerpts from interview
      narratives, which are presented with the emphasis on the 'construction aspect,'
      and two excerpts of short conversational exchanges, in which prototypical
      negotiation between two speakers takes place. Blackledge's chapter (Ch. 2) is
      an analogical case but with within-one-speaker negotiation. The chapters differ
      in the degree and proportion of emphasis on these aspects.

      I will turn now to the issue of discourse and discursivity. Whereas Holstein
      and Gubrium (2000) have tried to integrate and harmonize, at least in theory,
      the institutional 'macro' discourse-in-practice with 'micro' discursive
      practice of self construction, the present volume slightly 'sides with' the
      grand-discourse concept, although the editors do acknowledge the importance of
      the 'micro' discursivity (p. 14). The authors managed to incorporate the
      conception of grand discourse to analysis when dealing with the negotiation of
      identities in the lives of individuals or small communities, i.e., at the
      'micro' level. Nevertheless, they do not seem to have attended to the
      micro-discursive nature of identity negotiation. In my opinion, the authors do
      not usually show the sense of identities and their negotiation as really
      interactionally constructed, localized, occasioned, and dependent on narrative
      structures _within_ the data analyzed. Many authors used interview techniques
      in order to generate their data but do not show, explicitly or implicitly, the
      awareness that respondents negotiated their identities also and primarily with
      the researcher. It is important what questions researchers give, how they
      introduce themselves, how respondents perceive them, etc. In Chapter 3, for
      example, 'negotiation' does not appear as a situated action
      (respondent--researcher) but as self-positioning of respondents only with
      respect to majority discourse (respondent--majority discourse), and in
      addition, rather as a construction of identity than true negotiation (majority
      discourse is not shown to receive and respond to the respondents' claims).
      Robert Miller (2000) distinguishes three approaches to life stories: neo-
      positivist (viewing interviewee as affected by social structure and narratives
      as mirroring objective reality in a certain way), realist (building a
      data-grounded model of objective reality), and narrative (viewing reality as
      structured in interplay between interviewee and interviewer). Those
      contributors, who used interviews and narratives as data, approached them
      usually from realist or neo-positivist positions.

      There are, however, exceptions. Mills (Ch. 5) adopted more narrative approach
      than some other contributors as she has ''attempted to show that issues binding
      together identity and language were very prominent in _these data_ [i.e. in her
      interviews with respondents]'' (p. 186, underlining added). A strong focus on
      narrative aspect of the negotiation of self is present in Canagarajah's
      contribution (Ch. 9). The author explicitly deals with strategies of self
      negotiation _within and between_ academic writings and discourses.

      Concerning the approach to identity negotiation and particularly the interactive
      nature of this process, the editors explicitly state in the Introduction that
      the authors do not take up the approach of interactional sociolinguistics (i.e.
      Auer 1998 and the like), because it deals with negotiation of identities by way
      of code- switching and language choice (p. 10). However, it is not only the
      work on code-switching and language choice that is devoted to interactional
      identity construction and negotiation, but also ethnomethodologically informed
      work such as Antaki - Widdicombe (1998), or Hester - Housley (2002). The
      editors state, however, that relying _exclusively_ on interactive analysis
      cannot adequately explore all the complexity of negotiation of identities (p.
      25). I would agree, but like to add that the book under review have moved very
      far from interactive analysis and, as a result, might miss much of the
      phenomenon. In a reader on discourse theory and practice, Wetherell (2001: 382)
      identified ''six nodes of research activity which seem most relevant to social
      scientist'': (1) conversation analysis, (2) discursive psychology, (3)
      Foucauldian research, (4) critical discourse analysis and critical linguistics,
      (5) interactional linguistics and the ethnography of speaking, and (6)
      Bakhtinian research. The authors of this volume adhere mostly to critical
      discourse analysis, Bakhtinian and Foucauldian research, and ethnography of
      speaking.

      What is probably more relevant than all that has been mentioned above is the
      question if the choice of approach, data and methods was effective as regards
      the purpose of the authors' texts - to lay bare or address instances of social
      injustice. It can be concluded that it has. The volume is undoubtedly of high
      academic quality; it is informative and truly stimulating. The book is powerful
      in that it has one wide but synthetic and coherent theoretical perspective,
      within which all the authors managed to position their chapters. It is a
      well-written up-to-date achievement of a poststructuralist, socially engaged
      and critical branch of qualitative sociolinguistics with transdisciplinary
      overlaps, emphasis shifted from methods to findings, and analytical interest
      oriented to the links between the 'macro' and 'micro' of multilingual social
      life.

      REFERENCES

      Antaki, Charles & Widdicombe, Sue (eds.) (1998). Identities in Talk. London:
      Sage.

      Auer, Peter (ed.) (1998). Code-Switching in Conversation: Language, Interaction
      and Identity. London: Routledge.

      Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University
      of Texas Press.

      Bourdieu, Pierre (1991). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

      Cummins, Jim (2000). Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the
      Crossfire. Clevendon: Multilingual Matters.

      Davies, Bronwyn & Harre, Rom (1990). Positioning: the discursive production of
      selves. Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20,
      pp. 43-65.

      Fairclough, Norman (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of
      Language. London - New York: Longman.

      Franceschini, Rita (2003). Unfocussed language acquisition? The presentation of
      linguistic situations in biographical narration. Forum Qualitative
      Sozialforschung, 4, available at:
      http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs-texte/3-03/3-03franceschini-e.h tm
      [accessed June 5, 2004].

      Franceschini, Rita (ed.) (forthcoming). Leben mit mehreren Sprachen:
      Sprachbiographien im mitteleuropaeischen Kontext. Tuebingen: Stauffenburg.

      Hester, Stephen & Housley, William (eds.) (2002) Language, Interaction and
      National Identity: Studies in the Social Organisation of National Identity in
      Talk-in-Interaction. Aldershot: Ashgate.

      Holstein, James A. & Gubrium, Jaber F. (2000). The Self We Live By: Narrative
      Identity in a Postmodern World. New York - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

      Irvine, Judith T. & Gal, Susan (2000). Language ideology and linguistic
      differentiation. In: P. V. Kroskrity (ed.). Regimes of Language: Ideologies,
      Polities and Identities. Santa Fe - Oxford: School of American Research Press,
      pp. 35-84.

      Miller, Robert L. (2000). Researching Life Stories and Family Histories. London
      - Thousand Oaks - New Delhi: Sage.

      Nekvapil, Jiri (2003). Language biographies and the analysis of language
      situations: On the life of the German community in the Czech Republic.
      International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 162,
      pp. 63-83.

      Nekvapil, Jiri & Leudar, Ivan (2002). On dialogical networks: Arguments about
      the migration law in Czech mass media in 1993. In: Hester & Housley (2002), pp.
      60-101.

      Wetherell, Margaret (2001). Debates in discourse research. In: Discourse Theory
      and Practice: A Reader. Eds. M. Wetherell, S. Taylor & S. J. Yates. London,
      Thousand Oaks & New Delhi: Sage, pp. 380-399.

      ABOUT THE REVIEWER

      Marian Sloboda is a Ph.D. student of Linguistics at Charles University, Prague,
      Czech Republic. His main study interests lie in sociolinguistics, bilingualism
      research, language management, conversation analysis, and Slavic linguistics.
      His dissertation will be devoted to Belarusan and Russian language management,
      bilingual discourse, language ideologies and identities in Belarus.
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