Reconsidering material conditions in language politics: A revised agenda for resistance

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Focusing on resisting the hegemony of English or protecting vernaculars without addressing material inequalities is a misguided activity, as many scholars (including Hultgren 2020) have observed. Along those lines, applied linguists have recently argued that identity politics is ineffective without distributive justice (Block 2018); pedagogical changes without social structural changes (Flores 2013); or communicative, writing, and textual resistance without congenial institutionalized policies (Kubota 2014). These are important correctives for practitioners who might be too focused on making spaces for classroom and communicative changes in isolation from material and structural considerations. However, we have to also adopt a more complex orientation to material conditions and the way they relate to language inequalities when power finds more creative forms of control and expansion, as in the apparatuses of biopolitics in neoliberal conditions. I engage with Marxist orientations to language, especially perspectives on the base and superstructure, to deepen the materialist perspective on language politics.Though not all critical applied linguists are Marxists, we are indirectly influenced by Marxist orientations in our activist practice. Sometimes scholars adopt reductive versions of Marxism for polemical purposes, despite the complex debates that are going on. A revisit will help us develop a deeper orientation to language politics that addresses our contemporary challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalNJES Nordic Journal of English Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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