Constructing Narratives of Continuity and Change

Eljee, Lou and I are about to author our own Canterbury Tales as we have all had our abstracts accepted for this interdisciplinary conference to be held on 12 May 2012 in the beautiful, historical and vibrant city immortalised by Chaucer….who of course thoroughly approved of personal narrative and life history:

Experiens, though noon auctorite were in this world, it were ynough for me to speke of wo that is in mariage; For, lordyngs, syns I twelf yer was of age, I thank God that is eterne on lyve, Housbondes atte chirche dore I have had fyve. 

You have got to love The Wyf of Bathe and her undiminished enthusiasm for marriage, particularly her insistence that man schal yelde to his wif his dette payment she demanded be made with his sely instrument…at eve and  at morwe…One of the original subversive sisters?


Tanya Halldórsdóttir –  So you think you know Scheherazad?

Scholars may argue over the exact provenance of the Arabian Nights (Kitab alf laylah wa-laylah) and its original content, but children the world over have been captivated by the tales of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba, for many the first glimpse of the mysterious, magical Orient and the ultimate exotic Other. Inspiration for great literature and music through the centuries, and providing much of the story grammar for European fairytales, Scheherazad’s stories saved her life and those of women who would otherwise have been sacrificed to her husband’s bloodlust. In addition to the iconic characters immortalised in cartoons and on the silver screen, Scheherazad conjures up a host of strong female characters; beautiful and erudite queens, clever and quick witted slave girls, and resourceful if impoverished widows. But where are those heroines now? In much the same way as the cuckolded King Shahryah saw only treachery and infidelity in his brides, so the Western media perpetuates stereotypes of veiled women as ‘domesticated, subjugated and unenlightened’ (Abdelrazek 2007) portraying them not only as oppressed, but also as colluding in that oppression. In this paper I will contrast contemporary media portraits of Arabic women with the stories such women tell of themselves, drawing on life history research I have conducted in Yemen and the work of Arab American poet Mohja Kahf, and her Emails from Scheherazad (2003) to illustrate how women struggle against the patriarchal nature of Arab society and the dis-empowering and dis-abling attitudes of the West.


Abdelrazek A (2007) Contemporary Arab American Women Writers Youngstown NY: Cambria Press

Kahf M (2003) Emails from Scheherazad Gainesville FL: University of Florida Press

Eljee Javier – You, Me and Us: Researching the racial and linguistic aspects of visible ethnic minority, native speaker teacher identities in TESOL.

In the professional world of TESOL, the native speaker (NS) / non-native speaker (NNS) dichotomy is a firmly entrenched hierarchy that affects how teachers are perceived and valued (see Medgyes, 1992; Nemtchinova, 2005). The view that native English speakers are preferred English language teachers remains the dominant storyline, which is made available to those that fit the racial and linguistic criteria. Furthermore, within the international English language education business, the native speaker status is often associated with a particular racial profile.  As a native English speaker of Filipino ethnic origins, I am visibly not part of this profile and, as I have experienced, visible ethnic minorities can find that their native English speaker identity is not acknowledged by those who value the Anglo-profile (see Kubota & Lin, 2006; Holliday, 2009).

My experiences as a visible ethnic minority, native English speaking teacher (VEM-NEST) were the starting point of my PhD research (see Javier, 2010) and this paper presents the methodological considerations of choosing to use my narrative as an opening gambit in a multi-stage, narrative based study.  I am both the researcher and an active participant and I have deliberately incorporated my story as part of the methodological design.  The stories generated in response to my narrative have been influenced by my identity as a VEM-NEST in addition to the content of my story.

In order to illustrate the co-constructive nature of the interaction I will present instances where my story has influenced the written narratives of the participants as a way of revealing how they have subverted the dominant native speaker storyline.  Through this subversive stance, their written narratives reconstruct their racial and linguistic identity in response to the resistance they have encountered when striving to be recognized as a ‘legitimate’ English language professional. In turn, their stories have influenced how I view my position as a participant/researcher and the narratives I share with my participants during the ongoing data generation stages of this study.


Holliday, A. (2009). English as a lingua franca: ‘non-native speakers’ and cosmopolitan realities. In F., Sharifian, (Ed.), English as an international language: perspectives & pedagogical issues. Bristol: Multilingual matters, pg. 21-33.

Javier, E. (2010). ‘Foreign-ness’, Race and the Native Speaker. In D., Nunan, and J. Choi (Eds.), Language and culture: Reflective narratives and the emergence of identity. Routledge. pg. 97 – 102.

Kubota, R. & Lin, A. (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to concepts and theories. TESOL Quarterly. 40(3), p. 471 – 493.

Medgyes, P. (1992). Native or non-native: Who’s worth more? English Language Teaching Journal. 46(4), p. 340 – 349.

Nemtchinova, ?. (2005). Host teachers’ evaluations of nonnative English speaking teacher trainees: A perspective from the classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 2, p. 235 – 263.

Lou Harvey: The role of the researcher in constructing narratives of language learning motivation: A dialogic approach

This paper will describe my methodological approach to my doctoral work, a narrative study of six UK-based university students’ motivation for learning English, and will explore my role as a researcher in the construction of these students’ narratives. Research into motivation for learning English as a second language continues to support the perception that learners may be motivated by imagining their participation in the opportunities offered by the globalisation movement, and that they may wish to remain fully integrated into their own culture while simultaneously participating in the global sociocultural context they are helping to create. Whereas previous quantitative approaches to L2 motivation research have aimed to uncover generalisable rules to explain how context affects motivation, a narrative approach can illuminate ways in which motivation may be socially negotiated and constructed, and the personal, emotional fundamentals of language learning motivation. My research, then, aims to foreground the experience of learners, whose voices have rarely been heard in past second-language motivation research; I wish also to explicitly acknowledge learners’ agency and their power to accept or resist the pressures and influences they face, and the identities they are negotiating, as English speakers.

My interest in learners’ voices and my wish to understand and render their experience has led to a concern with representing their narratives in such a way that they recognise and feel ownership of their stories, at the same time as my treatment of these stories is sufficiently interpretive and academic to satisfy doctoral criteria. In search of something to help me directly reflect this concern in my methodology, I discovered Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism (1981, 1986), which conceptualises dialogue as the essence of language in its relation between utterance and response. I found that Bakhtin’s philosophy offers grounds for a theorisation of agency as both individual and co-constructed, a constant and creative process of self-authoring. Bakhtin’s conception of the author is of a narrative consciousness, entering into active dialogue with the specific others of whom and with whom they speak, creating narrative in a multi-voiced process of meaning-making. Thus in the narrative interview, storytellers analyse and interpret their contexts through their stories, and both participants listen and respond in a dialogical and creative process of responsive understanding, actively participating in the construction of the stories they bring to each other – the listener is always an active respondent, a ‘link in the chain’. Through sharing my emergent research design, I will illustrate my attempt to explicitly apply a dialogic approach to my research practice, methodologically positioning myself as co-producer of the stories.