Social structures, everyday interactions, and subjectivity: where (and how) does decolonizing begin?: Attending to desires, fears, and pains

Qinghua CHEN, Mei Yi Angel LIN

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Abstract

When ‘decoloniality’ and ‘decolonizing’ have become words frequently used in conferences and journal publications in our field of Applied Linguistics/Language and Education, as well as on many academics’ lips, we start to worry about how they too can be easily co-opted as buzz words emptied of their critical meaning and actional potential and become appropriated as discourses with symbolic capital to add to one’s portfolio for academic promotion. What Kubota (2016) has cautioned about translanguaging can be equally true of the scholarship on decoloniality: … its knowledge is becoming another canon–a canon which is integrated into a neoliberal capitalist academic culture of incessant knowledge production and competition for economic and symbolic capital (p. 475). In this paper, we write about the pains, memories, fears, hopes and desires associated with experiencing colonizing acts across different timescales: in one’s everyday life (e.g. micro aggressions in social interactions), in how one’s own sense of self and the world (subjectivity) is shaped and reshaped (e.g. through academic socialization), and in embarking on what can be done to change the various social structures of (both colonial and other kinds of) domination and subordination. The journey is never purely academic or intellectual as it is always embodied, evoking painful memories, fears and discomfort. And from this journey of sorting out what has happened to us (and many people like us) who have been subjected to the exercising of colonial power mediated through many diverse agents, across many shorter-timescales happenings as well as longer-timescales events and processes (Lemke, 2000, 2008), we aim at finding a pathway ahead that is over and beyond just research publications and presentations. No doubt, research publications and presentations are important as a starting point, but they must lead to some further actions for them to be truly decolonizing (and not just ‘knowledge about decolonizing’). Then we’ll propose a tentative thinking and planning tool to work with teachers, students, administrators, policy makers and most importantly ourselves, to grasp what it means/what it takes, and simultaneously begin to work, to ‘decolonize’ ourselves, our curriculum, our pedagogy, our scholarship and then gradually our field of Language Studies and Education. Copyright © 2023 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-126
JournalCritical Inquiry in Language Studies
Volume20
Issue number2
Early online dateMay 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Citation

Chen, Q., & Lin, A. M. Y. (2023). Social structures, everyday interactions, and subjectivity: where (and how) does decolonizing begin?: Attending to desires, fears, and pains. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427587.2023.2219059

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