Anne Robinson-Pant


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  • Multilingual research practice in co ntext of doctoral supervision: – as supervisor and research projects with international doctoral students Specific context re HE: – thesis has to be in English language & given criteria (clarity of structure), yet fieldwork may be multilingual and student may be trying to write for additional (unseen) audiences too. From my role as seminar convenor realised that students were aware of different identity in UK thesis writing (eg writing in first person, values), sometimes imposed and sometimes seen as a temporary transition. Also talked about translation as ‘ethical’ issue re their responsibility Had intended to interview/follow up students from 10 years ago but not had ethical clearance in time for this seminar.. So aim today is to introduce some conceptual frames that have been useful in exploring the hidden aspects of multilingual doctoral research (though most are bilingual), particularly with regard to literacy practices. Most social interactions in contemporary society are textually mediated (Barton and Hamilton 2005: 14), literacy is one part of a range of semiotic resources. Emphasis on social act, collaborative – writing as not just transcribing thought codified in oral language but as a conceptual tool that makes it possible to represent thought/transform thought Mateos and Sole Policy implications re internationalisation strategies in HE.
  • Turner re deficit approach to language in the academy: 24 When language becomes visible, that is when attention is drawn to it, this can only be because it has not been used ‘properly’. Q illustrates common view of international students – interested in what is meant by ‘style’ & separating from ideas: how to move from this approach to see migration as learning experience. Put emphasis on moving between different contexts, languages, cultures rather than focusing on the ‘home’ or ‘other’. (Bartell, Turner and Robson – transformative vs symbolic – what a uni is vs what it is) About what Brookes & Waters call “ The tendency has been to examine migrants’ experience ‘at home’ and ‘overseas’, rather than focusing on the actual process of and meanings attached to mobility itself.” 2011:129 (distinction between those who control mobility and those who are controlled by it..) 129 cf Transnational spaces, Rizvi, transformative vs symbolic internat Introduce two different approaches to language within research (technical vs methodological issue)
  • Turner: the empirical reality of language and intercultural communication lends a relentless practicality to the issues that need addressing Will look at doctoral students conducting research – international students in home context as well as other students going outside UK (cf Devereux in Ghana): Both are writing final text in English and do not consider themselves as language experts, approaching translation as technical job Contrast Devereux 3 scenarios (Ghana) p 46 where if researcher has a poor understanding of the language, delegates interviewing to research assistants and may not attend personally [influencing researcher role] Or Heyer ‘someone through whom I could speak’ ‘my mouthpiece’
  • Unusual to include these complexities when writing up – re having readers unfamiliar with discourse in this context International students not using interpreters usually so more about mediating own identities, decisions about how to interpret texts alone (not like involving 3 rd party, cf Devereux) Also challenging the idea of the supervisor as ‘expert’   Introduce theoretical lenses that bringing to this issue: decolonising research methodology (postcolonial lit)
  • Decolonising research methodology, postcolonial theory: Research is not an innocent distant academic exercise but an activity that has something at stake and that occurs in a set of political and social conditions (p 5) dominated by Western forms, genres, practices (ethics) cf relational ontology, English language, cf Tuhiwai Smith, language as a colonising instrument (Chilisa in Botswana, Indigenising research methodologies) not just about sharing information but knowledge p 16 (ie the assumptions that shape knowledge), cf occidentalist (not aware of the assumptions unlike orientalism, how far we are constrained by conventions) how do we textualise research? View of writing as not just transcribing oral data but also as a conceptual tool (Castello). Also that reading and writing not only modes re production knowledge, but also visual, spoken – not a linear progression from oral to written (as implied by PhD process and thesis) Implications: dominance Western methodology, English language & structures – this literature assumes hierarchy oral/written, separating (cf East/West)
  • Identify 3 models of student writing: study skills (teach atomised skills, transfer to other contexts), academic socialisation (inculcate into a new culture), academic literacies (lits as social practices) The notion of identity is also central, but the focus is on literacy practices and texts, giving ‘particular attention to the relationships of power, authority, meaning making, [and identity] that are implicit in the use of literacy practices within specific institutional settings’ (Lea 2004: 6), what counts as knowledge in any particular context. Academic literacies perspectives on thesis (literacy as a social practice, shaped by political, cultural and economic hierarchies) Writing as social, constructed in academic institution, drawing on particular conventions in different contexts, not one academy Hierarchical relationships tutor/student shaping text, Turner re the tutorial encounter as a contested site Identities in text as differing from other identities – Ivanic, 4 identities, reader/writer relationship   Academic enculturation seen as “situated, historical, evolving dialogic activity, as sites where students, professionals and societies are being remade in practice” (Prior and Bilbo 2012: 30)
  • culture as performative: not received cultures, focus on intercultural encounter, language in flux Holliday’s small cultures as a paradigm through which to analyse social groupings, Street culture as a verb, Sarangi; how and when culture plays an active role in shaping and influencing our meaning making endeavours Scollon and Scollon (interdiscourse communic) – communication works better the more that participants share assumptions and knowledge about the world face (negotiated public image, mutually granted each other by participants in a communicative event): if negotiations conducted using different languages with translators this is a situation of lesser involvement or higher independence than if used the same language (not just about efficiency) Pedagogical perspective on this – cf Turner 2011 – interplay of icc = source of change in the languaging practices of HE, looks at the points of transformativity, notion of solidified, naturalised intellectual cultural values and stability of conventions – how we are authored by texts Applying ideas from ICC to doing research multilingually: Focus on verbal communication relevant to interviews, focus groups and supervision context eg ideas re silence (Taoism), talk in classroom relevant to interview situations Intercultural rhetoric re constructing research texts (how we talk about difference) Problematic is the separation of speaking and writing? Now move on to introduce some issues that arose in TF res (DVD with AM)
  • Referencing and authority Talks as if a practical issue but underlying questions about whether ‘other’ literature is as good (cf geopolitics of publishing and status of English language journals, Canagarajah), not just about supervisor not understanding it. Relate to decolonising methodology – who has the authority to decide which is a good reference, but also perpetuating a situation where multi-lingual lit is not available Student trying to compromise by getting lit on management in UK/US, then articles about Thailand that are published in centre journals German student: I wrote my masters in English in Germany because it was political science and as the literature is in English, there is none in German. What’s the use of publishing in German? If there is an international focus, the course is usually in English. Beyond language – about ownership of knowledge? If no literature – Scholastica, it isn’t written down just known by everyone Henry – I am annoyed if have to attribute to someone else what I already know Authority of published text – more complex when bring language in
  • b) Translation and language choices: when, what and how? Both of these students refer to the social interaction (textual mediation re Barton and Hamilton) involved in working in two languages but differences in who decides what to translate – relates to hierarchical relationship with supervisor in 1 st quote. Issues about how accessible data should be to supervisor (similar to use of literature in Thai), changing goal posts Whether to translate alone – also raised issues about resources as having to pay for professional translator At what point translate data? How to share this with the supervisor? Academic lits: Supervisor disempowered? Reacts differently in these two instances
  • (transcribed from oral account) Ivanic’s four leaf clover: start from the autobiographical self (writer’s sense of roots), discoursal self (representation of himself in text), relational dimension (assumptions about reader’s expectations), authorial self (sense of authority in the text) *more evident if multilingual as each implies decision? Student is anticipating how the text will be read as well as how he has to change his style. Does this by seeing it not as a language issue (talks about writing the English way) but as cultural – and polarises English and African (cf Cross cultural rhetoric). Helps him to make sense of the greater emphasis on oral communication in his Nigerian context – it’s not either/or but how practices intersect, valued differently etc. (Turner re clarity, concision, brevity) Many other students associated writing in English as ‘being critical’, being more concise and direct (‘he says my writing looks like goes round the idea’), position of novice student in relation to texts, authority. Difficulties of critical thinking in a second language (can do it in Thai). Contrast between student and supervisor re experience of different identities (multilingual/multicultural): Challenge of the super visor’s lack of familiarity with other languages, cultures, ways of writing: ‘they read it from a British view’ (Thai student) Schola – when I say ‘town centre’ (in Tanzanian context) they think of Norwich!
  • Issues around conducting bilingual research – see Chilisa: ‘determine whether your institution accommodates the use of bilingual texts in the analysis and presentation of the data’ p 305 Voices are not just of the researcher and respondent but also the translator/research assistant, and how they may mediate meaning of speech and written texts Difficulty of ‘translating’ literature, ideas from another language especially if not in English journals? May also be texts that have shaped the fieldwork such as ethics codes in other contexts. Foucault genealogies – understanding the ideologies that have influenced the writing too, foregrounds power dimension in cultural legacies (cf European enlightenment ideas of clarity, transparent writing being linked to rational, objective, linked to morality, Newton) We are authored by texts Focus on ‘shifting’ identities as part of the new mobilities paradigm that started with – ie the strategies and perceptions of moving across cultures more important. But much harder to write multi-vocal, multi-genre, layered thesis (especially in a second language) than conventional text with uniform narrator’s voice which denies any tensions. Tendency to resolve any ambiguities in the text rather than highlight them (see Pillay).
  • Symbolic vs transformative internationalisation POLICY: the idea of making shifts, transnational spaces more significant for the student than the adaptation per se (ie how to adapt to UK norms…) EQUITY: way of challenging power hierarchies within university (cf reverse midwifery, Turner), student as expert re multilingual research NEW LITERACIES: source of change: internationalisation as a way of destabilising fixed genres and spaces, cf German seminar paper Chitez and Kruse – outlines different genres in HE ion France etc, writing cultures are embedded in learning arrangements (idea that new genres might have more flexibility), code meshing as a resistance strategy (Canagarajah) THEORY BUILDING understand more about the implied reader in other traditions, make language visible (often do not talk about this in research writing up), acknowledging other genealogies. Notion of which ideologies have informed writing and research practices (cf Brevity Concision Clarity)
  • Anne Robinson-Pant

    1. 1. Multilingual literacy practices and doctoral supervision: exploring hidden voices, identities and texts Anna Robinson-Pant, University of East Anglia Multilingually Seminar, Manchester May 2012
    2. 2. Language as a barrier to supervision“We give feedback about the style of the writing and the ideas. Style is a big issue for international students. I have one who volunteered to go for language support – they could all do with that but they don’t go… I find supervision very hard work because of the language. It is a step up for international students. Sometimes we are communicating but I am not sure if they have really understood it. They do all the form filling.” [Interview with doctoral supervisor]
    3. 3. From language as a technical issue… “I did my research in Swahili so I had to transcribe all my data then translate it in English and sometimes when you think in another language, even when I put down my sentences when sometimes in the supervision, my supervisor will ask me, what do you mean here? I will change things from backwards forwards because of how we speak in Swahili and I had to transcribe it and give to someone to proof read to be sure of the tenses and everything.” (Interview with Scholastica Mokake) “I challenge the golden rule which insists that learning the local language is essential for successful fieldwork…Learning the language is a ‘data collection exercise’ in its own right, and the investment of valuable time and intellectual energy in acquiring this knowledge should be assessed alongside the imperative to collect other kinds of data” (Devereux 1992: 43)
    4. 4. … to language as amethodological concern“The head teacher initially told me that it was a good policy. Later on in the conversation she went on to talk about the difficulties encountered by her school, that it was impossible for her school with limited resources to have so many goals. Implied in her indirect response to me was a critique of the policy But when I translated the statements into English, this did not seem to have the same impact as it did in Bahasa Malaysia. So what then? How do I tell my readers of a Western orientation that this is a powerful critique of the policy? That the statement must be understood in a cultural context where direct criticisms of ideas are said to violate codes of language use and social conduct. One does not say an idea is unworkable up front but rather one starts by praising the speaker and the idea and then makes helpful suggestions to improve it, because ‘saving face’ is important.” Pillay (1995: 135)
    5. 5. Decolonising researchmethodology“Having been immersed in the Western academy which claims theory as thoroughly Western, which has constructed all the rules by which the indigenous world has been theorised, indigenous voices have been overwhelmingly silenced.” Tuhiwai Smith 1999: 29“I have always been disturbed by the way in which the Euro-Western research process disconnects me from the multiple relations that I have with my community, the living and the non-living” Chilisa 2012: 3
    6. 6. Academic literacies“ Academic literacies research provides a methodology for understanding the ways in which meanings are contested in higher education. In particular, it is concerned with the broader social, cultural and institutional frameworks within which meaning is negotiated through particular texts, genres and discourses. It also moves away from a focus on the individual learner, paying more attention to the broader institutional context of learning and the ways in which meanings are contested within this framing” (Lea, 2005: 192)“Writers often experience a ‘crisis of identity’ when entering a new discourse community” (Ivanic 2005: 394)“Translators play a role, often hidden, in the discourses of academe” (Nelson and Castello 2012: 49)
    7. 7. Intercultural communication“Terms of cultural engagement, whether antagonistic or affiliative, are produced performatively… the representation of difference must not be hastily read as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural traits set in the fixed tablet of tradition” (Bhabha 1994: 2)“The tutorial encounter is a contested site, an unstable ground where the footfalls are unpredictable” (Turner 2011: 184)
    8. 8. Which journals? Whose authority?Student: I think it’s difficult to find in English journal about Thai study. So most of them are written in Thai language and he [supervisor] not happy…one time he told me that he cannot check that it’s OK because he cannot read the Thai language.Interviewer: And what did you feel about that?Student: I’m OK because I understand – I think it’s necessary about references, it should be good references... He said that it’s not [well-known] journal… So I try to find journal that talks about Thai culture and try to bring the Thai culture to my supervisor.[From interview with doctoral student]
    9. 9. When, what and how totranslate?“I translate all the data myself. I can’t do anything but translation. My supervisor read every transcript I translated so did it like a peer interview... checked her interpretation and my view. Every step of my work got peer review. Only one things annoys me this – they want me to do everything. We agreed at first that I will translate a few interviews, then I will bring summaries but later she wanted to read everything and the agreement changed”“I need to translate lots of documents in Polish, I need an interpreter, it is the law. I’m not so good to translate. So I had to pay to translated documents. I didn’t translate everything – after I started to write in English, but in the annex, such as the agreement for resettlement. My supervisor has experience in Russia but can’t understand in Polish. If he can’t understand what I mean, we talk about it and he says, maybe you can say it in this way… If I translate, Polish teachers help me to say it.” [From interviews with doctoral students]
    10. 10. Writing in English: the ‘relationaldimension’ (Ivanic 2005: 398)“My supervisors… say ‘you don’t write the way you talk - there’s a difference between spoken English and written English’. I really didn’t understand what they were saying, because after all I write and this is what I should have said. So it was a bit of a problem to understand, and again I was writing too much, because we talk too much so we write too much. …But now, I see…you just have to present this thing in a more concise way, keep to the point.I’ll give you an example – these things are mixed up, both in your study and in your culture. It’s only when I came to England, for example that I have learnt how to critique – I mean like there are some things you don’t say, let’s take an example – this was written by a senior person, it’s difficult for a junior person to critique it, you know in the African culture context. So you really need skills, you need some level of skill to do that, but here I’ve learnt that ‘look, there is still a way to say no and be right’, without putting in some insult or whatever, without breaking the culture. So what I’m trying to say is that sometimes…writing is also a culture – your piece of writing can explain the kind of culture you portray... That if your culture is not purely English culture, you re not likely going to write very strong acceptable English, that would be within the English culture. So you have to struggle, to move from your culture to the English culture.” [Interview with doctoral student]
    11. 11. Reading and writing a thesis:hidden voices, identities, texts How can a thesis based on bilingual or multi- lingual fieldwork incorporate or simply acknowledge such voices? Will the reader be aware of all the texts (published and unpublished) shaping ideas in the thesis and practices in the fieldwork? How can the writer share with the reader the experience of writing across cultures and languages, in terms of her/his multiple and shifting identities?
    12. 12. Implications for internationalisingUK higher education Different emphasis within internationalisation policy: from concern with integration, to focusing on transition/ migration as an educational experience in itself Challenging power relationships within the university, through positioning the student as ‘expert’ with regard to multilingual research Internationalisation as a way of destabilising and transforming fixed genres and spaces within higher education Making language visible within research methodology and theory building, rather than only in learning and teaching contexts