To be or to be perceived? Identity and Integration: an Introduction
Milton Bennett interviewed by Patrick Boylan
A conversation on cultural identity and integration
A Bourdieusian Perspective on Identity and its Role in Second Language Acquisition
This paper demonstrates the need for Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theory to develop a concept of the language learner as possessing complex social identities and that, by incorporating social theory into the field of SLA, researchers can begin to explore the relationship between the second language learning context and identity formation. The work of researchers who have conducted their studies within a Bourdieusian framework is presented to illustrate this. The paper acknowledges the inextricable link between language learning and identity formation and discusses the pedagogical and research implications this holds.
Habitus, self-identity, and positioning: The multifarious nature of study abroad
For the social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, habitus denotes ‘the durable motivations, perceptions and forms of knowledge that people carry around in their heads as a result of living in particular social environments and that predispose them to act in certain ways’ (Layder 1997:23). When individuals move from their home environment to unfamiliar social settings they are naturally exposed to different, and sometimes unsettling, ways of being (e.g., linguistic and cultural practices). While some border crossers develop a sense of belonging in the new milieu and experience identity and linguistic expansion, others retreat to the safety of their L1 and habitus. What might account for differing outcomes on stays abroad? Drawing on an ethnographic case study of Chinese sojourners in England, this paper explores the complex interplay between language, identity, and sociocultural context. Weaving together data from various sources (e.g., open-ended surveys, interview transcripts, diary entries, field notes) sensitized me to the contradictory, relational, and dynamic nature of self-identity and the influence of social relations, power, and access on L2 acquisition and intercultural adjustment. Individual, social psychological factors also impact on sojourn outcomes. Some students took advantage of linguistic and cultural affordances in their environment, opting to ‘converge’ and appropriate the discourse of their hosts (Bourhis et al. 2007). By contrast, those who experienced identity misalignments and felt constrained in new social fields clung to their L1, national identity, and familiar habits. The unique and diverse developmental trajectories of these sojourners underscore the complexity and multifarious nature of study abroad.
Subliminal Messaging in Multimodal Newspaper Editing
The Case of the 2008 US Presidential Election on the Front Pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post
The front page of a newspaper generally contains what its editor considers to be the most important “news of the day”. The front page is known to be a multimodal setting for a whole series of headings, subtitles, articles, reports, news flashes, photographs and other images that are placed together in apparently random fashion. The readership knows little about this layout structure that goes much beyond a general awareness that the most important news is “carried” in a top/central position on the page with large-print headlines, whereas the less important topics are below to one side (and sometimes centrally) in a smaller type size.
Specialists in news reading and writing, for their part, know that there is much more to a page and that the multimodal choice of similar topics and related structures also constitute what is known as “newsworthiness”.
A few other studies have also looked at the “less important” items reported on the front page and have shown that even unrelated items are actually carriers of the same message or theme as the main items, though without the readers being consciously aware of what is going on. These “unrelated” news items or “implicit topics” are in fact non-casual subliminal messages chosen and designed by the editorial staff as an intrinsic part of the theme of the page as a whole.
This paper therefore intends to explore how subliminal messaging was actually used by the New York Times and the Washington Post during the US Presidential election campaign 2008. The conclusions to be drawn about this sort of editorial manipulation and subjective reporting, especially during key ideological moments like political elections, will hopefully enhance our critical awareness and further debate.
M. Cristina Caimotto
MEDIAting Italy: the construction of Silvio Berlusconi’s identity
The aim of this paper is to analyze the construction of identity of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi through a Critical Discourse Studies approach (Van Dijk 2009). Interviews with Berlusconi and articles published on the La Repubblica website, reporting foreign media views, constitute the main object of enquiry of this paper in the attempt to establish what role these various actors played in constructing Berlusconi’s identity.
As others have pointed out (Stille 2006, Ginsborg 2003), Berlusconi’s relationship with money, media and political power, and the effect on reporting crystallise problems and issues that exist in all modern democracies. Though, in Italy’s case, there are other historical factors involved (Loporcaro, 2006) – apart from Berlusconi’s personal monopoly, the Italian case study points to the potential danger for democracy in any country. This work also takes into account the difficulties researchers face when dealing with contemporary political issues in terms of objectivity and proposes tentative solutions based on Corpus-Aided Discourse Studies and News Translation Studies methodologies.
Negotiating LBGT identities in Italy: an intercultural perspective
This paper examines the role played by culture in the social construction and performance of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) identities in contemporary Italian society. Focusing on the debate surrounding the proposed introduction of a ‘same-sex unions’ Bill in 2008 and by looking at LGBTs as a (sub)cultural aggregate interacting with the Italian society at large, this study seeks to identify cultural factors that could possibly influence the integration process and that could be specifically ascribed to the Italian culture.
The research gathers both qualitative and quantitative data from different sources. A first source of data is represented by newspaper articles reporting the views of two high profile members of the Catholic Church at a crucial juncture of the political debate. Additionally data is retrieved from Internet forums where comments in relation to the debate were posted. Data is subsequently analysed with a phenomenological approach using an interpretive methodology informed by Hofstede’s framework that relates acceptance of homosexuality to a country’s masculinity/femininity dimension and to its religious views. In particular, discourse analysis is used to highlight how values are conveyed, concepts related and, more generally, how specific linguistic aspects are used to create ‘social’ meanings, sustain ideologies and support (or undermine) particular cultural messages.
The findings suggest that the LGBTs quest for legitimization has been perceived (by a large part of Italian society) and portrayed (by the discourse in Italian media) as an attack on the institutions of marriage and family whose cultural significance in the Italian society can be usefully accounted for by the gender role division of the masculinity dimension (declined in its patriarchalist form). Finally, unlike most Western societies where acculturation ideologies have shifted from a marginalization of LGBTs towards their integration, Italian policies (or lack of them) have been instrumental in a radicalization and polarization of ‘homophobic’ and ‘resistant’ identities contributing to a separation of the two cultural aggregates.
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions: Italian national identity in ELF usage
Originally devised to account for national differences in work-related values, Hofstede’s model (2003) offers a convenient way to grasp cultural differences related to national identity on the basis of five dimensions. Recently the model has been applied by various scholars to the study of communicative and linguistic differences linked to cultural differences both across languages and in the study of English as a lingua franca within such diverse genres as calls for papers, business letters, e-mails, advertisements, commercials, websites, parliamentary speeches and doctor-patient consultations.
After examining the correlations between Hofstede’s dimensions and language in previous literature, the present paper applies Hofstede’s model to the comparison of native English and English as a lingua franca as used by Italians, an area as yet unexplored in the literature, with particular regard to two comparable websites of potato crisp manufacturers, Walkers and San Carlo. The results of the present study confirm the relevance of power distance and uncertainty avoidance, already shown in a cross-linguistic perspective (Cucchi 2010; Katan 2006), to the study of ELF usage by Italians in websites, and indicate the importance of individualism/collectivism. The study therefore shows that Hofstede’s model is a valid approach to predicting and explaining linguistic differences on the basis of national identity.