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Birkbeck at the AILA World Congress

The 18th AILA World Congress was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 23 – 28, 2017. The theme of the conference was “Innovations and Epistemological Challenges in Applied Linguistics.” The three official languages of the conference were English, Portuguese and Spanish, and in these three languages, symposia and individual presentations spanned five major categories – Language and Literacies, Language Teaching and Learning, Language in Professions, Language in Societies, and Applied Linguistics and Methodology. The fact that the conference was held in the global south was exciting for me as my research is in India, and I was able to hear about research from all over the world, including South Africa, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, and others. I gave a presentation about part of my PhD research, entitled “Multilingual Practices and Societal Influences: Intergenerational Communication, Styles and Identities in Western India”.

Attendees were treated to an exciting program over six days, which included plenary speeches each day. Luiz Paulo Moita-Lopes spoke about race and sexuality performativities in Applied Linguistics, outlining the need to provide “alternate narratives to modernist colonial prescriptions for our bodies.” He focused on the media entextualizations across the web, related to the tragedy of the murder of a gay black student on campus in Rio, demonstrating the importance of operating outside the essentializing discourses of modernity to counter discourses of hate. Lorenza Mondada’s talk dealt with epistemics in conversation analysis, drawing upon a large corpus of European shop encounters in the field of gastronomy. She highlighted the linguistic and embodied resources used by the participants in social interaction, demonstrating how the relationship between knowledge and expertise contribute to the way learning and socialization take place. Mary Bucholtz discussed the need for sociolinguistic justice for young people of racially, culturally and linguistically marginalized groups. She highlighted the importance of educational contexts as areas where ideologies of monolingualism and their relationship to different forms of social inequality are perpetuated, and therefore that these areas require not only scholarly interest, but intervention. Using examples drawn from an academic outreach program in southern California, she showed how research projects and community action projects about language, power and race can participate in advancing projects of social equality. Tommaso M. Milani spoke about Applied Linguistics and social engagement in South Africa, taking a southern perspective of geographic positionality on actions taken by South African students and himself at university protests there. He demonstrated how “practice is ahead of theory” in examples of the embodied forms of protest of some female students against the coloniality of power in the Rhodes Must Fall movement. He critically examined examples from the media of how these semiotic acts were taken up and how the students and their actions were portrayed. Ben Rampton discussed the relationship between sociolinguistics and security in contexts affected by conflict. In relation to ethnographic studies of language socialization and the learning of Turkish in Cyprus, he discussed the idea of the ‘enemy’ as an identity that is produced and reproduced in discursive practice. He highlighted how the importance of “everyday international relations” emerges when it comes to examining ideologies as well as practice, as seen through examples of how teachers of Turkish decontextualized language in the classroom, suppressing the social and political associations with language. Marilda do Couto Cavalcanti took a post-colonialist view in examining the idea of margins while discussing her research trajectory with indigenous and migrant communities in Brazil. She emphasized the importance of reflexivity in this work, as well as the need for a greater investment in “non-mainstream scenarios,” and more ethnographic and action research in Brazil.

Further Information

The conference organizers have made it possible for the plenary talks and other videos from the AILA 2017 World Congress to be viewed online.