Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ideologies of language and negotiation of multilayered identities in an age of superdiversity
by Umbreen, Saima, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2014, 290; 3629866
Abstract (Summary)

Researchers of super-diversity, a state of intense cultural heterogeneity common mostly in urban centers across the globe, have strongly emphasized the potential for rigorous qualitative studies of this social phenomenon to supplement perspectives in the field of linguistic anthropology by focusing on "what is lived and expressed in the everyday" (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011, p. 11) and analyzing "the degree to and ways in which today's migrants maintain identities, activities, and connections linking them with communities outside" (Vertovec, 2007, p. 1043). Moreover, in studies of language and literacy socialization in contexts of super-diversity, it has become highly significant to explore the patterns of "inter-generational language socialization within families" (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011, p. 14), focusing on the direction of influence (parent to child, child to parent, grandparent to child, sibling to sibling, etc.), as well as the context of its occurrence (whether in domestic, recreational, community, or religious circles).

This study contributes to the growing literature on super-diversity and more specifically to the field of linguistic anthropology and research on immigrant mothers. Bringing the Pakistani immigrant community in Toronto into focus, the present study demonstrates how Pakistani immigrant mothers, who are themselves in the midst of negotiating linguistic and cultural transitions, negotiate and construct their familial identities, while living in an increasingly diverse city like Toronto in a time when notions of diversity, multiculturalism, and multilingualism are themselves shifting.

Analysis of multiple dimensions of immigrant mothers' stories highlights the relational aspect of identity negotiation (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) in the context of immigration. Attending closely to the narratives of their past and present experiences with language learning and use, this study demonstrates how these mothers have negotiated their familial identities in relation to both their own positioning (Davies & Harré 1990) as immigrant mothers, as well as through the positioning of others' in their stories.

Moreover, close analysis of the multiple instances of identity negotiation through the way immigrant mothers talk about language and the socialization of their children confirms their own as well as their children's fluid, multiple and hybrid identities. Their negotiations of `new' immigrant identities into `a third space' draw on an amalgam of cultural and linguistic resources available in a city like Toronto. These findings on one hand problematize and transgress traditionally held notions of language and identity that have been focusing on English versus ethnic language and culture debate; on the other hand, they offer us a window into how immigrant identities are negotiated in superdiverse contexts.

Finally, I consider how the narratives constructed in an interactional context like the focus group discussions that constituted an important methodological tool in this study offer broader options for analysis of identity negotiation by providing special insights into how perspectives can be negotiated collaboratively among group members.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kearney, Erin
Commitee: Dimitriadis, Gregory J., McVee, Mary
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Learning and Instruction
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Foreign language education
Keywords: Language, Pakistani immigrants, Super-diversity, Toronto
Publication Number: 3629866
ISBN: 978-1-321-07270-9
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