My academic work has taken me to locations in many parts of the world. This page focuses on those which have been particularly meaningful.
Language and identity
While I do not consider myself a linguist, I am often attracted back to thinking, talking and writing about English and the world within the frame of small culture formation on the go – or, perhaps small language formation on the go, which I spoke about in the researching multilingually seminar at Manchester University in 2012. this hovers somehow on the edge of developing themes in translanguaging, and clearly rejecting common associations between language and culture. This line of thinking was evident in my appearance at a linguistics conference at Wenzao Ursuline University, Taiwan, concerning world Englishes and identity; and struggling with the deCentred connections between language and culture at the Japanese language teachers’ conference in Venice and at the Royal Institute of Technology symposium on ‘Language learning and Global Competence building’, Stockholm. In conjunction with developing the text for my new book with Routledge, A deCentred architecture of intercultural travel, I spoke at Portsmouth University on the interculturality of English in my Farsi and Farsi in my English during my life in Iran in the 1970s when I was 20+.
Taxi drivers would be listening, also wishing to attract custom. They would stop if the direction matched that of other passengers already in the taxi. … I found it useful as an environment for learning language, with the particular shared vocabulary and phraseology among the passengers – describing destinations, negotiating them with others, giving directions about where to stop, negotiating the fare based on calculation with the constantly running meter, negotiating seating so that unrelated men and women did not sit together, conversations about daily routines, and all the politeness phrases related to gender, status, class and so on that went with this.
Finding deCentred third spaces and understanding hybridity
While finishing our book on finding deCentred threads during 2019 with Sara Amadasi, I revisited the key concepts of third space and hybridity. I now see them as the concepts that govern who we all are every day. Understanding this helps us escape from Centre structures that try to fix and count us as simple definable objects. Examples of Centre structures are patriarchy, native-speakerism and neoliberalism. Malcolm MacDonald helped me to understand that it was false neoliberal essentialist definitions that made me think that third spaces and hybridity were essentialist instead of liberating.
Speaking at seminars in Leeds and Southampton, and taking part in the European Master in Migration & Intercultural Relations (EMMIR) at Oldenburg University in 2019, helped me develop this thinking. I was interviewed by Vivien Zhou and Nick Pilcher; and my association with the SHARMED and Horizon 2020 Child-Up projects in Modena helped me to see how these concepts are enacted with school children with migration backgrounds.
Searching for interculturality and identity
Conferences and seminars in 2017-8 gave me the opportunity to develop ideas further – Kent University on discourses of culture; Helsinki University on criticality in higher education; BALEAP Nottingham on who we are as academic writers; Istanbul University on how we can talk about national identity; eCOST Action in Bologna and Lisbon with Sara Amadasi on study abroad; and at IALIC Helsinki on interculturality.
Revisiting culture and language: Crossing borders and national identity – I already have a culture. I don’t need yours.’ ‘We are not who you think we are.’ ‘English is owned by everyone.’ The first was said by an ‘international student’ studying in Britain, the second by a student of English who was accused of not being critical. The third is what many scholars tell us about English and culture. Scholars also tell us that we can no longer speak of solid national cultures that make us essentially different to each other and that ‘native speaker’ is a neo-racist concept. In an academic climate where many established concepts are being challenged, I shall consider the important question of on what basis we can talk of cultural and linguistic identity. I shall look at this question within the dynamic context of small culture formation on the go. Abstract, Istanbul University
Intercultural education and study abroad
Collaboration at CCCU between applied linguistics and education within the Language & Intercultural Education Research theme group was enriched by a number of PhD researchers looking at the intercultural experiences of Malaysian and Algerian students while studying in British universities – radical image change, resilience, perceptions of Britishness, longer term impact of Othering – involving social media, film and broader ethnographic method.
Co-researching and blocks and threads
An exciting experience has been working with a co-researcher, Sara Amadasi, University of Modena. She brings with her an interest in intercultural conversations that reveal the immense existing resources that people bring to them. Working together has brought me a new
understanding about how we can overcome cultural blocks that reside in grand essentialist narratives by searching for cultural threads from our personal narratives that we can share.
In my plenary paper at the 2015 IALIC conference in Beijing, I inserted references to blocks and threads into my grammar of culture, to show further how both potentials for sharing across boundaries and the inhibitors of Self and Other politics range throughout the intercultural.
European discussions, Malaysia and Qatar
in 2013-14 I was invited to give talks and attend conferences, seminars and discussions in a number of European locations, in Vilnius, Lisbon, Porto, Warsaw, Modena, Bologna and Koper. I continued my collaboration with Fred Dervin, talking about China in Helsinki, and about intercultural competence in Kuala Lumpur.
My invitation to speak at the Nation in Transition conference at the Community College of Qatar in 2017 brought me into rich contact with researchers from Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Tajikistan and Qatar.
From theory to practice
Between 2011 and 2013 a series of events demonstrated how my grammar of culture can be applied to issues connected with cultural content in English language education. I use the evidence of the underlying universal cultural processes in the grammar to argue that students are able to contribute existing cultural experience to the learning of English.
Curriculum renewal in China
In 2013 I worked with the Chinese National Association of Foreign Language Education (NAFLE) to write one of seven chapters of the national syllabus for training English teachers. This is part of a proposal for curriculum change to the Chinese Ministry of Education. The chapter, entitled Cultural knowledge and intercultural communication skills sets out the parameters for how teachers should make use of the students’ existing cultural experience a key resource in the learning of English. This is intended to counter the common view that they should leave ‘Chinese culture’ behind in favour of ‘”native speaker” culture’ when learning English, thus becoming alienated from lesson content.
From Mexico to India
Nepal: A two-day workshop for 20 Nepali English teachers and teacher educators from central and regional sections of the Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA) universities and colleges on ‘Making the most of multilingual and multicultural experiences in the English classroom’, hosted by the British Council in Kathmandu, 2011. This followed two keynote addresses at national conferences for Nepali language teachers on a similar topic in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon: A two-day workshop on ‘Making the most of the experience and knowledge that language learners bring to the classroom’ for teachers and teacher educators in the region, hosted and funded by the British Council in Amman, 2012. There were 22 participants representing the Jordanian ministry of education, UNRWA and 10 universities in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Syria. This was followed by three keynote addresses on similar topics to Palestinian language teachers, funded by the British Council, in an-Najah University Nablus, Hebron University and al-Quds Open University in 2012.
Uzbekistan: A three-day workshop for Uzbek four university curriculum designers, on intercultural communication for English language teachers, hosted and funded by the University of East Anglia as part of the British Council Inspire project, in 2012. The participants were from four Universities.
Turkey: A seminar for faculty members in English Language Teaching at Istanbul University.
Mexico: A two-day workshop for English language teachers, on the cultural contribution of students, hosted and funded by the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, 2013. This was attended by teachers from schools in Guanajuato State. The event was filmed and will be featured on the British Council TeachingEnglish Guest Writers website.
Where East meets West
In 2009 I was able to spend a week at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, invited by Yasemin Bayyurt. Here I was able to interview a number of students who helped me to answer a leading research question – can one be modern without being Westernised.
Between 2001 and 2009 I carried out annual seminars on qualitative methods for Christ Church doctoral research in applied linguistics. Starting in Mexico City under the auspices of the British Council, these very quickly moved to Guanajuato, hosted by the University. They were attended by doctoral students from Guanajuato (Doug Goodwin, Ingrid Barradas, Irasema Mora, Ireri Swadley, Karen Rodriguez, Luz Maria Muñoz de Cote, Martha Lengeling, and Troy Crawford), from Oaxaca (Bill Sughrua), Vera Cruz (Edith Herrera, Oscar Narvaez), Morelia (Kimberly Brooks-Lewis), Puerto Vallarta (Caroline Moore), Australia (Anne Swan), and from the USA (Lise Buranen).
In 2006 an international conference on qualitative research grew out of this activity, organised largely by Martha Lengeling, which had its third two-yearly event in May 2010, and the proceedings were published for the 2006 and 2009 events.
Working with qualitative researchers
My interest in qualitative research took me to speak at the 2006 International Conference on Qualitative Research in Developing Countries at the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Karachi University in Pakistan, organised by long-standing colleague Fauzia Shamim.
In 1998 I took part in a British Council funded mini-project to develop qualitative research skills for the Society for Pakistani English Language Teachers (SPELT) in Karachi – with Fauzia Shamim and Zakia Sarwar. In 1996 I spoke at SPELT National Conferences in Karachi, Abotabad, Peshawar and Islamabad Universities.
In 2002-3 I was funded by the British Council to teach a course on qualitative research methods for PhD students at ELTE, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest, Hungary, where I met Bojana Petrić.
In 2003, while accompanying Mehri Honarbin-Holliday to her research site, I was invited to give a lecture on qualitative research at Al Zahra University, Tehran, Iran. In the photograph is my niece, Sara Alavi, who was a student there at the time.
Visiting early locations
At CDELT, Ain Shams University, Cairo, I spoke at the 21st National Symposium, for which I used to organise the audio-visual aids. There I met my colleagues, Amal Kary, Salwa Farag (who was now organising the audio-visual aids), and Mona Zikri, who is chairing my session in the picture.
At the ESP Centre, Damascus University, Syria, I spoke at the English language classroom in the 3rd millennium conference, where I met my colleagues, Warka Barmada, Afaf Sayyeghi, Steve Boeshaar, and a new generation of teachers who had been trained by Mona Rafka.
The communicative curriculum
In 2009 I was invited to speak at the symposium on culture, discourse and language teaching at Zhejiang Normal University in Jinhua, China. This was the site of Wu Zongzhie’s impressive PhD thesis (supervised by Dick Allwright) which I examined at Lancaster University in 2002 – about how curriculum innovation was constructed through teachers’ informal conversations. In Jinhua I witnessed the best example of a home-grown communicative curriculum, where students learn excellent English through individualised investigation.
In 1994-7 I took part in a DfID-funded three-year project at Pune University in India, to develop a textbook for undergraduate science students in Maharashtra province with Grace Jacob and Maya Narkar. One product was the Discourse Skills in English. Another was my education in post-colonial studies.
In 2000-2 I took part in the HEFCE-funded FDTL DATA project, at Kings College London University, to develop materials for management, evaluation and teacher education for university applied linguistics programmes in Britain – with the late Alex Teasdale, Anne Fraenkel, Richard Kiely and Dermot Murphy.
In 1993 I carried out a British Council-funded language needs analysis for al Furat oil company personnel in Syria.