Discussion Group

Current Organiser: Karin Tusting k.tusting@lancaster.ac.uk

Most meetings are held on Tuesdays during term time, 1.00 – 2.00 pm in County South B89. All welcome, feel free to bring your lunch!

Literacy Research Discussion Group Programme

Michaelmas Term 2019 

Date & Location Speaker(s) & Affiliation  Title and Abstract
Tuesday, 8 October


LRDG members and visitors An informal start of term get-together where we will update each other on current research work and ideas, publications, summer conference experiences and anything else that comes up. Open to anyone with any interest in literacies!
15 October Pamela Olmos, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico Back and forth between languages: an early career bilingual academic’s writing odyssey

Many academics can produce successful texts in both English and another language, and move back and forth between languages. In this talk, I present an auto-ethnography regarding my experience of writing in L2 and the impact of going back to write academically in my L1. The paper is a reflection on the main constraints I had on expressing my authorial identity and position as an academic. I will focus on moving back to write in my first language and the personal-professional impact this is causing me in producing an academic text in the context of my home country. The reflection is  documented with entries from my academic writing diaries, introspection techniques, text analysis of some extracts of my writing and sections from an interview with a colleague. As a researcher in L2 academic writing and identity, I am aware of the processes involved in writing in L2 and in the shaping of the writer’s authorial identity; however, the process of reflecting upon myself is a challenge. At the end, I explore how the possible
effects the physical space/country of writing could have a determining role in the development of one’s writing. The paper closes with a reflection on the utility of reporting an auto-ethnography study and the opens discussion for other bilingual academics who experience similar tensions.

29 October Robert Crawshaw, Lancaster University Institute for Social Futures, Cultural Literacy in Practice, Special Interest Group of Cultural Literacy in Europe  ‘Walking the walk’: art, cultural literacy and practice-led research – a case study.

Promoting collective states of mind such as ‘belonging’, ‘identity’, ’well-being’ and ‘community engagement’ has become a stated objective of national funding agencies in the UK, against a background of technological innovation, economic inequality, social exclusion, diversity and diminishing resources.  Projects and programmes abound in response to this challenge, often mounted in collaboration with self-employed ‘community artists’. This workshop discussion will address the role of the university in relation to such practice-led research.

The discussion will draw on examples from a recent suite of projects which explore cultural literacy in relation to art, community and action.  Members of the group will be invited to adopt the role of critical evaluators in identifying the strengths and possible weaknesses of the recent AHRC prizewinning cinematic project ‘Give me today anytime’, a component of the Mirador Arts project ‘Walking in others Footsteps’ http://miradorarts.co.uk/category/walking-in-others-footsteps/ .  This short film, derived from the recently digitised on-line Elisabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive held at Lancaster University, can be studied alongside its integral components ‘Skip, Play, Repeat’, ‘Voices from the Hood’ and the complementary interventions by the project’s engagement officer, Steve Fairclough.

The session will open up discussion around questions relevant to practice-led projects and programmes more generally, such as: How effective are they, and what do we mean by effectiveness in this context?  To what extent should such actions be described, in themselves, as ‘research’? What should be the role of universities in engaging in these kinds of initiatives?  Who, apart from policy-makers and peer-group assessors, is critically researching the practitioners? If Cultural Literacy is an informed combination of knowledge, practice and collective awareness, according to which criteria and in terms of whose interests should projects such as these be deemed to be ‘successful’? What are the longer-term outcomes and impacts of such projects, and can (and should) they be made sustainable in a short-term research funding environment?

NOTE: Please bring your laptop or tablet to access the materials we will be discussing in the session.


François Matarasso A Restless Art:  https://arestlessart.com (Central Books, 2019), complete copy of text available on-line as a pdf.

Robert Crawshaw Cultural Literacy in Practice: draft update of Special Interest Group pages on the website Cultural Literacy in Europe www.cleurope.eu – draft to be circulated as background reading.

5 November


Vijaya Sangaran Kutty (LAEL) The ethics of researching vulnerable people on social media: Exploring the identity of Malaysian Indian transgender people on Facebook

My study seeks to investigate the ways in which Malaysian Indian transgender people (MITGP) navigate and negotiate their identities on Facebook. The perception that Islam, the official religion of Malaysia, does not accept transsexualism has resulted in Malaysian transgender people being among the most marginalised and disadvantaged. Years of political posturing utilising religion and race, and hate speech, propagated by influential public figures have reflected in widespread discrimination and hostility against transgender people, reinforcing and exacerbating existing prejudices. Socio-cultural and religious taboos deny the existence of transgender people and discourage any tolerance for their gender identities, regarding them as a threat to deep-rooted heterosexist and heteronormative social norms. They suffer oppression and injustice, consistent negative portrayals in the media and face particularly high risks of violence. Yet, with the easy accessibility and ubiquity of digital and social media communication, a number of these muted voices are beginning to be heard online. Facebook, as a social media platform, grants transgender people an alternative space and unprecedented opportunities for self-expression and performance.

In my talk, I share an account of my research design, describe the means of recruitment of participants, data gathering and analysis procedures. I focus on issues of ethics, anonymity and reflexivity that affected my research.

19 November Terezinha Da Costa Rocha, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil One Classroom, Two Languages: academic literacies across Sign Language – Portuguese interactions

This talk will describe early findings from a study which analyses aspects of the academic literacies involving Deaf sign language user students in a classroom. The fieldwork involved an extended period of participant observation in a classroom as part of a Linguistics and Portuguese undergraduate degree program in a Brazilian university. The class had 40 registered students, including 3 Deaf students. The research adopts a view of literacy as social practice and an ethnographic approach. The analysis processes led to identifying challenges experienced by participants, such as situations of misunderstandings in interactions and in the literacy process, especially when deaf students read and produced texts in the second language.

CANCELLED as part of UCU industrial action


26 November

Karin Tusting Negotiating the multiple institutional locations of professional academic writing.

I will be presenting here a talk I will be giving to the Professional, Academic and Work Based Literacies BAAL Special Interest Group in December which explores what it means to adopt an institutional perspective on literacy practices. I will highlight in particular the importance of understanding the multiple, dynamic institutional locations of professional academic literacies, in a context in which some sociological models of institutions are moving away from fixed models and developing understandings of institutions which highlight their dynamic nature and the networks, flows and mobilities which sustain institutions in a globalised world (Faulconbridge and Muzio 2011). I will make an argument for the value of focusing on how people in local settings negotiate the multiple institutional locations of their practices. Examples will be drawn from the recently completed research project Academics Writing: The Dynamics of Knowledge Creation (Tusting, McCulloch et al. 2019), which explored the everyday writing activities of academics, approaching these as professional, academic, and workplace practices. This data shows individual academics negotiating tensions between multiple social institutions within which their literacy practices are located, including their universities and departments; their disciplines and professional associations; and the extra-professional institutional settings of family and home life. This multiplicity of location means that their writing is recognised and valued (or not) in different ways by different institutions, which created challenges for our participants as they navigated between them. I will argue that attending to such multiple institutional locations of writing practices can enrich our theoretical understandings of the situated nature of literacy practices, providing a more nuanced perspective on the diverse ways in which institutional relations of power shape and evaluate professional and academic writing.

CANCELLED as part of UCU industrial action

3 December

John Pill, LAEL, Lancaster University, and Amy Zenger, American University of Beirut

Moments of intersection, rupture, tension: writing and teaching academic disciplines in the semiperiphery

In The Semiperiphery of Academic Writing, Karen Bennett (2014) defines a space of academic practice that she terms the semiperiphery, situated between the two unequal geopolitical spheres of the academic “centre,” on one hand (located primarily in North America and northern and central Europe), and the “periphery,” on the other (located primarily in Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America). Economic differences between the centre and periphery translate into differences in terms of material resources available to scholars, academic publications they can access, and recognized knowledge they may produce. Bennett notes that universities in the semiperiphery zone perform boundary work between the centre and the periphery, often acting as “conduits for knowledge flows emanating from the centre” to serve institutions and people in more peripheral locations (p. 3). She argues, however, that the semiperiphery is more aptly described as “a place of tension … effervescent with possibilities, allowing dominant attitudes to be challenged and new paradigms to arise in a way that would be unthinkable in centre countries” (p. 7).

Our presentation draws on research into the relationship between writing and academic disciplines, focusing on a space of academic practice in the semiperiphery. Our data are drawn from interviews with eight multilingual faculty members from different disciplines working at a long-established Middle East university that uses English as the medium of instruction. Participants were prompted to reflect on three broad topics: the nature of writing in their academic discipline, their experiences as a multilingual scholar, and their approaches to teaching writing. Analysis of their responses allows us to interrogate Bennett’s concept of semiperiphery in this academic context, with regard to determining disciplinary boundaries, making research “readable” for different audiences in terms of focus and method, and using English and other languages in knowledge production.

1pm Thursday 5 December

C89, County South

Iva Son Li, Lancaster University An analysis of collaborative peer interactions: Young children’s meaning-making with a literacy iPad app

This ethnographic study investigates collaborative social interactions among peers, as well as exploring how children may apply literacy information acquired from iPad activity to the preschool classroom. For the data analysis, I applied a coding protocol to analyse the children’s learning outcomes in three dimensions: cognitive processing, social processing, and communication style based on the ‘analytical framework of peer group interaction’(Kumpulainen & Mutanen, 1999). The data samples demonstrate the development of collaborative literacy practices and cognitive skills and an increase in productive exploratory behaviours.

10 December 1pm B89 County South David Bloome, EHE Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning, The Ohio State University Languaging Personhood in a 10th Grade Classroom

David Bloome and the Ohio State University Argumentative Writing Project

We hold that any use of language is an engagement in the social and linguistic construction of personhood.  We define personhood as a shared cultural model for what counts as a human being including what kinds of human beings there are, the nature and essence of human beings, and what characteristics and attributes are assumed inherent to human beings.  We report findings from a microethnographic discourse analytic study of a 10th grade language arts classroom in the U.S. in which they students were engaged in researching the “American Dream” from the perspective of minoritized people.  We use the findings to theorize: (a) foundational educational constructs such as curriculum, learning, and argumentation; and (b) the languaging of personhood focusing on both how broader social and language contexts and ideologies influence the face-to-face languaging of personhood and how face-to-face languaging influences broader social and language contexts and ideologies.