When settler colonialism speaks English: Dmitri Detwyler, ‘Locating Language-Teacher Identities in the Settler-Colonial Universe’, Canadian Modern Language Review, 78, 4, 2022, pp. 363-384


Abstract: The practice of English language teaching has long been an important part of socializing transnational migrants and international students into ongoing English-dominant settler-colonial projects in North America and beyond. The professional activities, knowledge, and identities of English language instructors are therefore central to the reproduction of the settler-colonial order. In this article, I investigate the relationship between language-teacher identities and settler-colonial discourses of raciolinguistic differentiation and hierarchy in Canada. Working in a discursive constructionist conceptual framework, I adopt occasioned semantics to analyze excerpts from research interviews with two ELT instructors in post-secondary and adult ESL contexts. I demonstrate how these instructors’ talk about students and languages performed language-teacher identities-in-discourse and argue that these performances reflected and contributed to reproduction of settler-colonial discourse patterns. I further suggest that settler colonialism constitutes for ELT practice in Canada a hermetic “universe” with its own internal logics and relations that must be examined and made explicit through reflection. Some pedagogical implications of this analysis include the need for ELT instructors as well as English-language teacher educators to develop an awareness of local settler-colonial histories, teach for truth and reconciliation, and embrace strategies for de-naturalizing the settler-colonial “universe” as they create spaces of possibility for decolonization to be carried out. One research implication is that language-teacher identity scholarship would be strengthened by embracing epistemological and methodological decolonization.

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