Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Decolonizing Research in the Teaching of English(es)

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Decolonizing Research in the Teaching of English(es)

Article excerpt

The history of knowledge-making in modern Western history from the Renaissance on will have, then, theology and philosophy-science as the two cosmological frames. . . . Both frames are institutionally and linguistically anchored in Western Europe. They are anchored in institutions, chiefly the history of European universities and in the six modern (e.g., vernacular) European and imperial languages: Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, dominant from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, and German, French and English, dominant from the Enlightenment onward. Behind the six modern European languages of knowledge lay its foundation: Greek and Latin-not Arabic or Mandarin, Hindi or Urdu, Aymara or Nahuatl. The six mentioned languages based on Greek and Latin provided the "tool" to create a given conception of knowledge that was then extended to the increasing, through time, European colonies from the Americas to Asia and Africa. (Mignolo, 2009, p. 6)

This issue marks the end of the 49th volume year for RTE. Entering the 50th year of publication, we take this time to reflect on the nature of knowledge-making unfolding in these pages. Why English? Why English only? Research in the Teaching of English, as a journal and disciplinary formation, is framed by linguistic and institutional tenets. It works from the tacit assumption that the English language is a neutral object. A monolithic whole. The gold standard of languages. The natural object of analysis for scholars and teachers in Canada and the United States. The top of the language hierarchy that mirrors the social one in which whiteness is presumed to also be a monolithic baseline against which all others are labeled (e.g., as diverse, people of color, marginalized, etc.). The presumption of the journal has been that fluency in English is a natural(ized) objective for all peoples in the twenty-first-century global economy, particularly in the United States, where the English Only movement has gained even more momentum in recent years. Such a presumption reifies the position and imposition of English only-as it simultaneously erases the historical roots of whitestream, standard English as an imperial language.

The institutional imperialist frame of Research in the Teaching of English works with and alongside the linguistic imperialist frame, providing "the 'tool' to create a given conception of knowledge that was then [and is now] extended" through the Americas and abroad (Mignolo, 2009, p. 6). Knowledge made in the pages of this journal centers literacy as knowledge, the literate as knower. To begin the work of decolonizing the institution of knowledge-making in RTE requires a shift "in the terms that one might typically use to describe reading and writing: letters, literacy, literate and the alphabet" (Cushman, 2012, p. 552). The etymologies of these words link them to Western language families and their alphabetic writing systems. Being lettered is synonymous with being a knowledgeable, learned, and accomplished intellectual: "To be literate is to be fluent with the letter or to be lettered, from the Latin, Literatus" (Cushman, 2012, p. 552). The work of this journal, then, has historically been tacitly complicit with the linguistic and institutional work of maintaining the imperialist roots of English only.

As we reflect on the 49th year of this journal's history, we are mindful of this legacy as we hope-in the company of many others-to continue the work of decolonizing research in the teaching of English. One facet of our editorial vision has been to include work of early career scholars, who also have explicitly and implicitly asked: Why English? Why not Englishes? Why not multiple ways of knowing in addition to being lettered? Why not multiple means of expression in addition to the letter? And moving beyond Mignolo's concerns above, why not feeling, affect, and being in addition to knowledge-making? Adding to the voices of scholars published in previous volume years, Peter De Costa (2014) conceptualized cosmopolitanism in language and literacy education to study youth negotiating linguistic and literate practices in a multilingual school in Singapore. …

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