Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Review of Negotiation of Identitites in Multilingual Contexts
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2004 16:13:01 +0200 From: Marian Sloboda 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
Marian Sloboda, Charles University, Prague
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.
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.
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.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
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.