From 'language learning as the key to integration' to 'language learning for enriching solidarities in diversity'

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Social Science


As part of my doctoral work, I have constructed a framework that reimagines migrant language education from the bottom up for a more socially just, emancipatory, solidarity-based approach moving away from top-down imaginations of migrant integration into the nation-state that have become emphasised in political and public discourse propelled by the backlash to multiculturalism. Thus, I advocate for a normative shift from 'language learning as the key to integration' to 'language learning for enriching solidarities'. This is particularly relevant in the context of the migrant city London where urban multiculture and increased migration-driven diversity intersect with entrenched forms of inequalities giving way to the ranking and ordering of difference and the establishing of complex hierarchies of belonging and integration. My research highlights how migrant language education has become entangled in these processes and the challenges this poses for migrant language educational settings. I argue for the conceptualisation of these settings as 'micropublics' of cross-cultural encounter where conviviality co-exists with tension and conflict and for the need of these settings to effectively engage with this dynamic. Within this context, my new framework focuses on micro-level practices and encounters and the ways in which migrant language educational 'micropublics' can harness the forging of solidarities under conditions of increasing diversity and become places of learning, belonging and a supportive sociality for the building of more equitable and inclusive futures.
The fellowship will enable me to develop, test, and apply this new solidarity-based model and promote it through dissemination to academic and non-academic audiences providing a timely contribution to current debates on multiculturalism, urban diversity and migrant language education. This will furthermore facilitate cross-disciplinary dialogue between migration research and language education enriching both fields with novel insights gained through my work. The fellowship further aims to influence policymaking on the issues of integration and community building from the bottom-up as well as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in a time of increased socio-political and socio-economic volatility.
I will carry out a small-scale follow-up research project as part of this fellowship to advance my solidarity-based framework. The participatory and collaborative project will develop the new bottom-up model to migrant language education and document the co-construction and implementation of a short tailor-made alternative language course utilising participatory photography/photo voice. By capturing the ways in which diversity is encountered and negotiated in this context and the practices the participants are engaging in here and now as part of this intervention, the project will be able to provide a more sustained understanding of emergent relationally constituted innovative forms of solidarity in diversity and different ways in which convivial capabilities can be fostered within migrant educational 'micropublics'. The project will be carried out in collaboration with a diverse and heterogeneous group of migrant and refugee students and one or two of the practitioners at the same field site of my doctoral research who have shown keen interest in being involved in further projects.
The research project informs and supports the impact-orientated objectives of the fellowship, the publications (in particular the monograph), presentations, and the webinar. The webinar will be organised towards the end of the fellowship and provides a platform for the participants of the participatory research project to meet and share their experiences with policy makers to help them engage effectively with the question of language learning for enriching solidarities under conditions of increasing diversity and to explore innovative approaches to tackle current challenges.


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