Sterzuk (2015). ‘The standard remains the same’: language standardisation, race and othering in higher education.

Sterzuk, A. (2015). ‘The standard remains the same’: language standardisation, race and othering in higher education. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 36(1), 53–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2014.892501

[“Introduction” (p 53) …]

“_white settler_ … Sherene Razack (2002) … ‘A white settler society is one established by Europeans on non-European soil. Its origins lie in the dispossession and near extermination of Indigenous populations by conquering Europeans. As it evolves, a white settler society continues to be structured by a racial hierarchy.(2)'” (p 53)

“As a child, I understood this shift from the linguistic and ethnic heterogeneity of previous generations to the homogeneity of my generation to be the natural and inevitable result of settlers’ deliberate decisions to give up old languages and old ways in order to ‘become’ Canadian. I did not realise that this sameness that seemed so ‘natural’ to me was actually the successful outcome of British imperial intentions for white settler societies to become overseas extensions and replicas of British society (Stasiulis and Jhappan 1995).” (p 54)

“Canadian educational institutions have historically served as homogenising agents for a heterogeneous population.” (p 54)

[“White English in a white settler society” (p 55) …]

“… two connected ideas: the mechanisms of settler societies and standard English as white property.” (p 55)

“… Catherine Prendergast’s (2003) analysis of literacy and racial justice in the USA. … ‘Recognizing that literacy has been often regarded as a White trait, something that Whites possess naturally, rather than as a White privilege, I maintain, more accurately reveals why many Whites — including those recently contesting affirmative action in educational settings — have acted as if something has been taken away from them when the goods of literacy are redistributed.(8)'” (p 55)

“In turn, this sense of loss over ‘property’ leads to a need to re-establish ownership of English through the act of othering the racialised Englishes of students.” (p 56)

“Because in Canada, a racial hierarchy has developed that privileges whiteness over other possible racial identities (Thobani 2007) and white settler ways of speaking English remain elevated over other(ed) Englishes, particularly those Englishes connected to non-white bodies. … Suhanthie Motha (2006) argues the following connection between language and race: ‘I consider linguistic identities to be inextricable from racial identities because I believe Whiteness to be an intrinsic but veiled element of the construct of mainstream English’ (497). … Creese and Kambere’s (2003) exploration … ‘discursively patrolled through accents’ … ‘… also shape perceptions of language competency’ (566). … Privileging settler linguistic homogeneity in higher education should be understood as a means of reproducing the racial hierarchy of the settler nation and as symbolic investment in whiteness.” (p 56)

[“Methodology” (p 57) …]

[“Findings and discussion” (p 59) …]

“… another factor may be their beliefs about their respective rights as non-native and native speakers of English and how this identity positions them in terms of their right to judge and label the English of others.” (p 60)

“… the encounter with the native English-speaking white settler classmate who corrects the research participant’s English, arguably rendering it as illegitimate. I suggest that it is the Canadian student’s own white English-speaking identity that positions him in this encounter as the legitimate owner of English.” (p 61)

“It is important to remember that perceptions of language proficiency are socially constructed.” (p 62)

[“Conclusions and implications” (p 62) …]

“A monolingual, monolithic and native speaker performance of English, often associated with white varieties of English, is used as the benchmark for linguistic and academic proficiency and for legitimate participation in learning.” (p 62)

“The adaptation that has occurred at this particular Canadian university, and likely others in North America (Kubota 2009), is one that privileges white settler native speakers of English, thus perpetuating the linguistic and racial hierarchies first established through British imperialism.” (p 63)

Selected References

  • Creese, G., and E. N. Kambere. 2003. “What Colour is Your English?” The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 40 (5): 565–573.
  • Kubota, R. 2009. “Internationalization of Universities: Paradoxes and Responsibilities.” The Modern Language Journal 93 (4): 612–616. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2009.00934.x.
  • Motha, S. 2006. “Racializing ESOL Teacher Identities in U.S. K-12 Public Schools.” TESOL Quarterly 40 (3): 495–518. doi:10.2307/40264541.
  • Prendergast, C. 2003. Literacy and Racial Justice: The Politics of Learning after Brown v. Board of Education. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press.
  • Razack, S., ed. 2002. Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society. Toronto: Between the Lines.
  • Stasiulis, D., and R. Jhappan. 1995. “The Fractious Politics of a Settler Society: Canada.” In Unsettling Settler Societies: Articulations of Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class, edited by N. Yuval-Davis and D. Stasiulis, 95–131. London: Sage.
  • Thobani, S. 2007. Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
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