Applied [email protected]: Linguistic diversity & social justice

By March 12, 2012News

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The next seminar of the 2012 series of Applied Linguistics seminars at Macquarie University will be held next week:

Linguistic diversity and social justice

Ingrid Piller, Macquarie University

Abstract: My current research focus is on the intersection between linguistic diversity and social justice at local, national and global levels. I am interested in the ways in which language has become an increasingly important basis of socio-economic stratification in the current globalized neoliberal economic order. In this presentation I will focus specifically on the discursive construction of language learning as a form of human capital accumulation. Neoliberalism prescribes market solutions to all social problems, including those of inequality. In this model, individuals are exhorted to invest into enhancing their human capital and opportunity becomes an individual responsibility. Language is ideally suited as a marker of distinction in this model because unlike most other key bases for social stratification (e.g., class, gender, race) it is relatively fluid and – seemingly – not inscribed in the body. The discursive construction of language learning as an individual responsibility, however, conflicts with the experience of the relatively static linguistic habitus of adults. More so than most bases of social stratification, language thus dissimulates its operation.

Time and venue: Monday, March 19, 12noon-1pm, Macquarie University, W5C 221

Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller
  • Khan

    Dear Professor Piller,

    Thanks- I look forward to attending your talk, courtesy Ustream and Dr. Kimie.

    Best wishes,


    • Thanks, Khan! It was really special for us here in the audience at Macquarie University in Sydney today to have a question from Pakistan, too, as part of the discussion. The kind of global research interactions we are seeing here on Language-on-the-Move are amazing and I think much good can come from these collaborations! Thank you, Lisa Fairbrother, as our presenter today, and everyone in the audience both actual and virtual!

    • Thank you, Khan, for being part of the seminar at MQ today (the talk was on at 8am Bangkok time and 6am Karachi time;-)! I look forward to having more opportunities like this, and I’ll certainly be there at Ingrid’s seminar next week.

  • khan

    It was my first experience of participating virtually in a seminar. The work presented and the discussion followed it was intellectually very stimulating. The study seems very valuable and the presenter fit for the job.
    I have requested my department at lancaster Uni a number of times to make virtual participation possible whereby people far away do not feel themselves disadvantaged, but nothing has come out of it. Anyway, Macquarie has fulfilled this wish. I am thankful to you all particularly to Professor Piller and Dr. Kimie for giving this wonderful opportunity to experience the vibrant academic work at your department. As an aside, seminar at 6 in the morning has its own pleasures!

  • Kami

    Will this seminar be broadcasted online? I am really interested in the topic. Will this be on March, 19?

  • RJ

    The topic of this seminar is really interesting for two reasons for me: first, having recently realized how learning certain languages could be socially and economically empowering, I wonder how we can fight hegemony of a certain language; second, I am currently working on a research project that is based on the two paradoxical notions you have juxtaposed in the following sentence of your abstract: “The discursive construction of language learning as an individual responsibility, however, conflicts with the experience of the relatively static linguistic habitus of adults”. I am talking about the notions of “language learning as an individual responsibility” and “relatively static linguistic habitus of adults”. Using an ethnographic approach, I am collecting biographies of successful English users from different ethnic backgrounds who never went to an English-medium school and mastered this language very late in their life. For an initial analysis of this data I looked for patterns of behaviour that indicate a sense of individual responsibility and aspects of their lives that provide information about the acquired schemata, sensibilities, depositions and tastes (habitus) that helped learn the language successfully. The purpose is to raise questions about the responsibility of English educators and institutions in providing an equitable learning environment to those who lack certain schemata and sensibilities. I would be interested to know what your opinion on this issue is.

  • Khan

    Dear RJ
    Thanks for sharing the details of your exciting project. The seminar was intellectually very stimulating. I don’t know if you attended it or not. Anyways for me the finest point of the seminar was the exploration of the intersection of language learning with neoliberal economic order where individual is held responsible for all the language learning although language and language learning has always been a social practice. People learn languages in society rather these days in powerful institutions. But the too much focus or stress on individual for successful language learning is clearly a discourse rooted in the larger discourse of neoliberalism. The talk actually triggered a lot of thinking into the ways through which bourgeoisie capitalist controls the unequal distribution of resources. I understand from the seminar that the shift is also a smoke screen or a distractor from the fundamental question of the responsibility of providing level field to language learners.

    I wish you good luck for your project and look forward to reading about it.

    Best wishes


  • Eleonora Mazzanti


    I’m an italian student from France, studying the linguistic policies addressed to migrants, and I would be interested in seeing a video of this seminar if that exists! Thank you very much!

    Best regards,

    • Thank you for your interest, Eleonora. Part of it is available on ustream but we’ll try to make the video of the whole seminar available here on Language-on-the-Move in the near future.

      • Eleonora

        Thank you for the answer! I’ll watch it on ustream for the moment and wait for it to be fully available on the website, then.

        Best wishes!