Constructing a multivocal self : a critical autoethnography

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The purpose of this study is to explore the possibilities of critical autoethnographic study in helping multilinguals become more aware of the larger politics underlying the relationship between language and identity, examine their own roles and vulnerabilities in social situations, and work towards the transformation of an ethical subject. Although there is literature to show how mobility and the large-scale, global flows of people in the current era are increasingly dissolving essentialist ideas of race, nationality, cultural practices, linguistic identities and so on, twenty-first century multilingual accounts still exemplify a deep level of anxiety, confusion and frustration on issues of authenticity and legitimacy in relation to language and identity. Critical reflexive multilingual accounts can play an important role in transforming these vulnerabilities into knowledge, capital, and necessary vulnerabilities. This study adds to this growing body of work. Using my own multilingual experiences as data in the form of diary entries, photographs, correspondences with others, media clips, and memories, I demonstrate not so much how individuals are able to take an active role in self-interpreting and constructing their own lives, which is self-evident, but rather, the process of how individuals can learn to think differently and re-frame or re-signify their understanding in order to open up multiple future possibilities. Starting with my own critical incidents of feeling dispossession in one of my languages (Korean) in my linguistic repertoire, I draw on a wide range of scholarly literature to critically self-analyze and interpret past and present experiences, desires, intentions, complicities, and performances using a narrative structure. By placing my experiences within a scholarly framework, this study attempts to demonstrate the importance of questioning what lies behind everyday utterances and life events, and to think about the political and ethical implications of the utterances, thoughts, actions, and stories of the self and others. As a result of this work, I argue that troubling one’s own epistemological understanding of language and identity enables one to re-imagine and re-fashion one’s identity. In the case of this work, the study has enabled me to re-signify my identity from a “multilingual” to a “multivocal” identity.
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