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Identity in Communicative Contexts

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Edited By Kamila Ciepiela

The central focus of the book is the identification of the ways people engage in communicative encounters to (re)constitute personal and social identities. Its aim is to identify some principal themes that have emerged from the ample research on identity in a variety of contexts. A common thread of the articles is the role of language in the construction and performance of identities. It embraces an exploration of the sociocultural environments in which human communication takes place, the interplay between these environments, and the construction and display of identities through our communicative performances. Research located in a range of literary, sociological, psychological and linguistic perspectives is used to illustrate the potential of communication in establishing a sense of identity.

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Issues of identity and ‘otherness’ in relation to accent and language in an intercultural learning context

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Abstract In 2014 the Open University in the UK launched a new distance-learning module, ‘Exploring Languages and Cultures’, designed to address the need to develop intercultural competence in undergraduate language students living in an increasingly interconnected world. The first of a series of asynchronous online forum activities integrated in the module asked students to answer a few questions and reflect on the impact of accent on their identity. The high volume of responses received (the activity was not compulsory) suggested a real need to engage with issues of language and identity within an intercultural learning context and prompted the writing of this paper.

Informed by the notions of ‘strangerhood’ and ‘otherness’, this analysis of authentic material looks at how these students attempt to mediate their sense of identity across geographical, linguistic and cultural spheres, how they position themselves (or are positioned) as cross-cultural intermediaries; how they mediate cultural adjustments; in short how they ‘do identities’ in a multicultural, multilingual environment. Pointing at the participants’ strategies in constructing and positioning their (in some cases multilingual) identities in an intercultural learning community and within a metropolis such as London, this paper suggests that by developing an ‘inner quality of strangeness’ (Coffey, 2013, p. 271) we might be able to exorcise our fears of the ‘other’ and ultimately become better intercultural mediators.

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