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Space, Place and the Discursive Construction of Identity


Julia Bamford, Franca Poppi and Davide Mazzi

Over the last few years there has been a burgeoning interest in both space and place as linguistic phenomena. Some of this interest stemmed from studies on the situatedness of language and speech in time and space and how deixis anchors speech to a context. Both our frame of reference with respect to surrounding space and how we conceive and describe it are closely linked to the language we speak. This is why different cultures perceive spatial relations differently, with speakers of one language, for instance, encoding spatial relations with respect to absolute directions while speakers of a different language use egocentric terms.
This book focuses on space, place and the discursive construction of identity in the present, globalized era, where technological developments are causing a change in the perception of spatial boundaries and geographical locations, and identities are experienced in hitherto unknown ways.
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Place and Space as Shapers of Disciplinary Identity: The Role of Indexicality in the Emergence of Disciplinary Writing Expertise: Dacia Dressen-Hammouda


Today, researchers and practitioners in the fields of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and first and second language writing research overwhelmingly acknowledge that knowledge about just discoursal forms and disciplinary genres is not enough for students to become proficient in their disciplines (Beaufort 1999; Ivanič 1998; Prior 1998; Swales 2004; Tardy 2009).

Even so, many studies continue to focus on surface-level analyses, limited either to the text that is explicitly identifiable on the page, or to describing the context alongside the text. As discussed by Lillis (2008), and Starfield (2011), many such studies examine context as though it were “talk around text” (Lillis 2008). By positioning their research from the outside looking in, researchers are methodologically comforted in maintaining a more narrow and limited understanding of the nature of social context by adopting methods which on the surface seem to ‘get at’ social context, but in truth remain on the ‘outside’ of meaning. Such studies fail to bridge the gap between text and context, by not examining more closely “how discourse and text ‘index’ social structure” (Starfield 2011: 176).

The purpose of this chapter is to explore how indexes bridge the gap between a discipline’s visible genres and its embodied knowledge and practices. Disciplinary newcomers are only able to participate fully in a discipline’s activities by gaining access to all aspects of practice via its indexical system. To become proficient writers and participants in their discipline, students must thus learn about...

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