Discourse and desire in a second language classroom

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This thesis draws on the theories of Foucault, and Deleuze and Guattari to describe some ways in which teacher and student identities are produced and performed in a second language classroom. Three major aspects of identity are considered: cultural identity, teacher professional role identity, and the changing identity of the language learner. The thesis uses poststructuralist perspectives to critique notions of identity current in second language theory and practice. It extends the conception of identity as 'subjectivity’ proposed by Bonny Norton Peirce - that is, as multiple, impermanent, fragmented – to include the notion of subjectivity produced in interaction and desire. Through an examination of texts produced in an ethnographic study, the thesis addresses issues of cultural categorisation and stereotyping in second language teaching and learning. It discusses the discursive production of subjectivity in discourses of cultural identity and the extent to which culture is a determining factor in subjectivity in the classroom site of the research. It shows how a homogenising effect of discourse leads to the positioning, both self-imposed and other-imposed, of individuals as members of particular cultural groups with particular characteristics. The thesis also discusses the discursive production of subjectivity through discourses of good teacher and good student, and demonstrates the extent to which these discourses are processes of molarisation. The thesis is thus concerned here with an examination of relatively static, fixed identifications and to demonstrate the power of discourse to determine subjectivities. It is also concerned to look at an excess to discourse, a flow which is beyond signification and identification: desire. Identity change at the discursive level is discussed through discourses of becoming, and is differentiated from movements away from subjectification. These movements of desire are proposed as a new way of conceiving agency. The thesis attempts to show some ways in which these subjectivities, produced in discourse and desire, play out in the classroom, in terms of their production and reception by participants, and the impacts on the teaching/learning context.
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