Our initial Call for this special issue on The Politics of Language cast a wide net over connected fields of linguistics, cultural studies, human rights, intercultural communications, and language pedagogy. We received numerous thoughtful inquiries resulting in this final presentation of review essays and book synopses from nine different authors, all of them new contributors to the Review. Our Call posed the challenge of moving beyond the more practical treatments of language typical within international education. We asked reviewers to question notions of interpretation, meaning, and identity within intercultural settings, but also within the structures of international education as a field of inquiry. Ultimately, we asked reviewers to explore how language influences our perspectives on the world and thus our abilities to understand these diverse perspectives.
Erica Mallett's review essay explores the connections between language, culture, and identity through three different fields. Nunan and Choi's Language and Culture: Reflective Narratives and the Emergence of Identity (2010) presents biographical narratives as a means of understanding how individuals shape, and reshape, their identity within a cultural context. In contrast, Pupavec's Language Rights: From Free Speech to Linguistic Governance (2012) examines language policy vis-à-vis a human rights perspective and the impact of cultural identity associated with the diminution of a spoken language. An additional contribution to Mallett's essay is provided with her review of Rivers and Houghton's Social Identities and Multiple Selves in Foreign Language Education (2013) and the connections to how identity is also constructed through the social interactions of students learning a new language within the setting of a culturally–and developmentally–diverse classroom setting.
Sanderson's review essay explores similar questions, but in relation to regional linguistic groups and the association with national and social identity. In his review, Fishman and García's Handbook of Language & Ethnic Identity: Disciplinary & Regional Perspectives (2010) is presented as a resource of key concepts and disciplinary approaches to the study of language and cultural identity. He then turns to Edward's (2010) account of four minority language groups and the factors contributing to the eventual adoption of English as a dominant language in Minority Languages and Group Identity: Cases and Categories. This examination of language loss is juxtaposed with Vila's 2009 report of a set of workshop proceedings, Survival and Development of Language Communities: Prospects and Challenges, presenting case studies of "medium" languages such as Danish or Catalan that come to be associated with national identity or statehood.
In our third review essay, Rajakumar calls for "a more inclusive conversation" within academic cultures to take greater account of linguistic and cultural difference. Building on the work of Nunan and Choi (2010) and Rivers and Houghton (2013), reviewed also by Mallett, she draws close parallels between language and communication styles. She frames her argument with Pennycook's theoretical contributions in Language as a Local Practice (2010), referencing his understanding of language as a dynamic, socially constructed, and locally specific form of human interaction. From the Llamas and Watt volume, Language and Identities (2009), she uses the example of gendered speech in the workplace to demonstrate ways in which relations of power imbalance are reflected in communication and social interactions, even in the same language. From a more contemporary context, Nakamura, Chow-White, and Nelson's Race After the Internet (2011) present examples of how the virtual space of internet communications can mirror the social markers of different cultural groups. In reflecting on these examples, Rajakumar makes a passionate case for educators to open the communicative space of academic settings to these diverse cultural experiences.
Among our wider selection of book synopses, various publications support and enlarge the positions offered by the review essays. Turner's review of Taylor, Hardman, and Wright's Making the Invisible Visible: Gender in Language (2013) offers further evidence of the divergent ways in which social groups experience language, in this case specifically through gender identity. Todeva and Turpin add to Rajakumar's argument with their thoughtful review of Matsuda's Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language (2012), a critical linguistic analysis of the multiple "englishes" present within the English-speaking universe, thus challenging the notion that there can be a single dominant form of English instruction. Stanley offers a valuable contrast with the critique of Modern Standard Arabic as a dominant language in the Middle East in his review of Salameh's Language, Memory, and Identity in the Middle East: The Case for Lebanon (2010).
A set of synopses examine language in relation to globalizing movements and cultural identity. Turpin and Todeva provide their own account of Edward's Minority Languages and Group Identity, with the cautionary note that minority language enthusiasts not overlook the cultural context in which cultural groups seek to thrive within new and/or dominant cultures. McGuinn's account of Benson, Barkhuizen, Bodycott, and Brown's Second Language Identity in Narratives of Study Abroad (2013) provides a helpful second language acquisition and identity development linked to learning languages in a host culture. Finally, Schmidt-King turns her attention to the challenge of globalization, cultural identity and migration in her review of Liebscher and Dailey-O'Cain's Language and Globalization: Language, Space, and Identity in Migration (2013).
We hope you find these resources valuable for your own considerations on the politics of language with international education. We hope these discussions will prompt an ongoing dialogue within our field in order to create the more "inclusive conversation" Rajakumar calls for.
Rebecca Hovey, Emily Gorlewski, and Bryan McAllister-Grande