Two new Language-on-the-Move PhDs

By April 29, 2012News

Dr. Zhang, Prof. Piller, Dr. Butorac, Dr. Takahashi

Language on the Move proudly presents two new PhDs! Dr. Donna Butorac and Dr. Jenny Zhang graduated last week.

Donna’s PhD was awarded for a thesis Imagined Identity, Remembered Self: Settlement Language Learning and the Negotiation of Gendered Subjectivity. Jenny’s PhD was awarded for a thesis about Language Policy and Planning for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: An investigation of the discursive construction of an Olympic city and a global population.

Both Donna’s and Jenny’s higher degree research was supported by a Macquarie University Excellence Scholarship and both were supervised by Ingrid Piller and Kimie Takahashi. Please find the abstracts and links to the full text of both theses below.

Congratulations, Dr Butorac and Dr Zhang!

Butorac, D. 2011. Imagined Identity, Remembered Self: Settlement Language Learning and the Negotiation of Gendered Subjectivity. Sydney, Macquarie University. PhD. (Full text)

Abstract: This ethnographic study explores the impact of English language learning on gendered subjectivity, specifically in the context of transnational migration. With interactions spanning a twenty-two month period, it follows the language learning and settlement trajectories of a group of nine recent women migrants to Australia. The resulting analysis is based on a large corpus of narrative data derived from personal interviews, discussion groups, email journals, blogs, and personal communication. Adopting a critical, feminist approach, the study foregrounds the reported experience of migrant women in order to understand how coming into voice in English impacts a learner’s sense of self and settlement aspirations. Examining data from three interactional domains, corresponding to the experience of subjectivity in family, society and work, the analysis looks at issues related to language, race, and gender that impacted the participants’ settlement trajectories. It finds that the impact of attitudes to race and gender subjectivities in Australia, and the ways that migration is a gendered process, are deeply involved in the impact that learning English has on aspiration and selfhood in this context.

In addition, the study explores the way that identity is articulated in both theory and practice, ultimately proposing an inclusive approach, one that aims to advance the theorisation of identity in sociolinguistics by accommodating a poststructuralist multiplicity alongside the individual’s perception of a core self.

This is an outstanding doctoral thesis. It makes an original contribution to scholarship across several areas, including sociolinguistics, studies of gender, studies of culture and identity, and more broadly migration studies. […] It also makes a genuine contribution to its stated goal of promoting social justice. (Examiner)

Zhang, J. 2011. Language Policy and Planning for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: An investigation of the discursive construction of an Olympic city and a global population. Sydney, Macquarie University. PhD. (Full text)

Abstract: This study situates language practices and ideologies within China’s broader social, economic and political changes, and in particular, the preparation and hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In recent years increasing empirical evidence has been presented indicating the use of sport for creating a positive national and/or regional image. However, little research has been conducted to investigate the language policy and planning endeavors undergirding the construction of national identity in large-scale sporting events, including the Modern Olympic Games. In this study, I attempt to present a multi-dimensional critical perspective on the link between English language learning and identity politics in the context of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In doing so, the study aims to provide insights into the persistent identity dilemmas recurring throughout China’s English education history and presents some broader implications for current and future Chinese language policy makers, educators and learners.

This study employs a multi-method qualitative methodology with constructionist epistemological orientations. It reports on a range of data collected through multi-site fieldwork before, during and after the Beijing Olympic Games. Specifically, the study is based on four sets of data to present a holistic picture of language practices and language ideologies observed in the context under investigation: language policy documents and reports on English learning and popularization, photographs of Beijing’s linguistic landscape during the event, English teaching materials designed specifically for Olympic purposes, and interviews with Olympic volunteers, teachers and BOCOG staff about their attitudes toward English learning and the Olympiad.

The central argument of this study is that ideologies of English language learning and teaching need to be understood as local, social and political constructions in a particular society. The learning of English in China has been driven by a simplistic view of complementary language use: English for yong – modern uses and international communication; Chinese for ti – national cohesion and harmony. However, the internal paradox of the ti-yong conceptualization has produced persistent identity dilemmas in China’s English language education. In contrast to legitimized “benefits” of English in China’s mainstream discourses, Chinese learners of English have complex, nuanced, and sometimes ambivalent reasons for participating in English language learning. Furthermore, the spread of English in China is inextricably linked with political decisions that benefit some groups at the expense of others, which has concomitantly contributed to various forms of social inequality.

The findings of my study suggest that English is the symbolic capital for stakeholders who share a vested interest in the English training industry. At the same time, English may provide little practical application value for most Chinese EFL learners who learn English only for the sake of showing proof of possessing it rather than actual competence; and in some contexts, the need to learn English can even constitute a serious disadvantage for members of minority ethnic groups who may lack access to English teaching resources. Uncritically oversimplifying Chinese people’s desire for English in terms of “inherent benefits” will not only mislead Chinese learners of English but also threaten the language and social rights of disadvantaged groups.

This well-conceived and well-written dissertation addresses a critical and significant research problem […] it contributes to our understanding of the diffusion and spread of English in the era of globalization and its impact on contemporary sociocultural life. […] a fine-grained empirical analysis into such a rich and complex topic. (Examiner)

Author Lg_on_the_move

More posts by Lg_on_the_move
  • Khan

    Heartiest congratulationsssssssssss to Language on the Move Phd scholars: Dr Butorac and Dr Zhang! and to their supervisors Dr. Piller and Dr. Kimie from Pakistan. Lovely pic! But only one.


  • Both look like fascinating, and important, studies 🙂 Congratulations to all, and thank you for posting the entry and the abstracts!

  • Liz Stokes

    Congrats proud doctors! And it’s wonderful to see full text copies of your theses available at the same time – the academe, also, is on the move. 🙂

  • Lachlan Jackson

    Yes indeed! Warmest congratulations to Dr Butorac and Dr Zhang!!!
    Awesome pic too!