English and translingual adolescent identities in Greece

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This thesis is concerned with rethinking English and identity among adolescents in contemporary Greece. As the ‘default’ foreign language in Greece, English has been discursively produced within educational and social milieus in paradoxical ways. On the one hand, it is seen as an instrumental tool, a neutral pragmatic language essential for learners’ future socioeconomic success. On the other hand, it is discussed as a detrimental influence in that it is seen as a threat to ‘Greek’ language and identity. Setting aside this rhetoric, the thesis offers a counter-narrative that opens up the issue of local engagement with English in Greece. Drawing on poststructuralist understandings of language and identity, on the notion of performance as well as on performativity theory, the study examines the manifold, unpredictable ways in which English becomes seamlessly integrated into Greek and playfully and idiosyncratically reconstituted locally among adolescents to create a plethora of identity effects. The research takes an ethnographic approach comprised of participant observations and interviews with four groups of adolescents in Ioannina, Greece. It adopts a research perspective that combines an interpretive theoretical framework with poststructuralist research epistemologies and demonstrates the usefulness of such a dual paradigm for a project that seeks at once to interpret adolescents’ linguistic practices with English and to deconstruct the very category of ‘English.’ The analytic stance mobilises detailed textual analysis and poststructuralist discourse theory, thus making it possible to investigate the micro, while interrogating the macro and the political. On the basis of this analysis and without losing sight of the cultural politics of English, the thesis argues for an understanding of this global language in Greece as linguistic praxis, as performative, as giving rise to translingual identity experiences. This new perspective may lead to a reconceptualisation of English language pedagogy in Greece which might involve an increasing engagement with learners’ distinctive ways of speaking and ‘being in and through’ their compulsory ‘foreign’ tongue.
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