#FLlitrevew: the literature review (2)

#FLlitrevew, aka Research writing: how to do a literature review, led by Emily Purser, Lecturer in Academic Language and Learning, University of Wollongong (@UOWFutureLearn). Four weeks from 26 Feb (part 1).

Week 3: what drives a literature review? 

So far we’ve been thinking about the literature as information. This week we’re going to shift gears and think about what you’re doing with that information.

Report or argument? Consider:

  • the overall balance as a review develops, and how much description or argument there needs to be at various points within the presentation of others’ research
  • the main rhetorical purpose of your writing, whether it tends to be mainly descriptive or critical, and what‘critical’ means in an academic context
  • the role of questions in designing a text and developing an argument

Questioning the literature

The dominant function of a literature review is to report what others have done, answering specific questions (what, how, why?), explaining something and offering recommendations on how a problem might best be managed. They also argue – they make a case for doing further research.

An argument typically presents a series of points, organised into a logical order, and addresses questions that are very open to interpretation (is, does, should?). It leads the reader from a proposition to a conclusion, by substantiating claims with some kind of explanation and believable evidence. A review should be designed to clarify the motivation and the need for the further research you’re proposing to do, and to critically discuss the literature rather than just describe what others have done.

Questions help turn a bibliography into a literature review. Drafting a list of good questions will help you identify what you really want to know and discuss, select the most relevant sources, and design your review as an interesting discussion. However interesting a paper might be to read, you need to put it aside if it doesn’t provide information on the specific questions you want to discuss.

Listing a few questions also sparks desire to know more. Formulating questions of various kinds is a great way to start imagining the structure of your review, so start formulating a list of questions for your own review to answer. Your list of questions should include some that are quite easy to answer with available published information and others that are more open to interpretation and require discussion of various sources.

The relationship between questions and claims: how do you know when a sentence is making an arguable claim?

Questions behind statements, ie questions that motivate statements you might find at the beginning of a paragraph or section of a longer text:

  • answers to a simple definition question (what is / what are…?)
  • answers to a question beginning with where….
  • more beginning words: how | who | when | why | should | because

Questions and purpose: questioning to drive research and interesting discussion

Listing broad and specific questions helps you develop direction and purpose in your discussion of literature and the research you are envisaging. It prepares for drafting your review, in that paragraphs can be organised around them.

Paragraphs in academic writing generally start by making a point, then explaining and illustrating it with reference to specific sources of information – the initial point or claim (the topic sentence) can be a response to a specific question that you have planned your discussion around.

Paying attention to the way texts are organised and worded can help improve your own writing. Consider how reporting differs from arguing; how a sentence might reproduce someone else’s words only, or use their ideas to say something new; how statements relate to questions; what types of questions a review is addressing – any sentence ‘could’ be written in various ways, and the choices made are meaningful. The writer’s job is to carefully consider what their aim is (overall, and at each particular stage in their unfolding text), and to word sentences to serve those rhetorical purposes.

What happens when you focus only on information, and do not consider how it could be used to say something new? Having no particular purpose in mind when you bring a bit of information into your writing might make the writing very dull (to write, and for others to read), and can easily lead to plagiarism. To avoid that, you need to not just use, or re-produce information found in publications, you need to re-purpose it. So you need to know your purpose, before you begin incorporating others’ writing into your own. You should only begin drafting your literature review after you have thought hard about its overall design, and the function of each step within it.

Think about how you might use the literature you have gathered to answer or discuss specific questions (example), then match specific readings to specific questions. This helps you see whether or not the papers you have in your bibliography are really the ones you need to be discussing.

Concepts and outlines

Articulating points and the point of planning before drafting.

A concept map helps you see not only how questions relate to sources, but also how one question relates to others, which questions should be addressed first, how one leads to another, and how your presentation might best be organised (example).

Tools: Cmap | Bubbl.us

Many writers find a concept map a powerful strategy for designing a discussion of academic literature. It seems especially useful in foregrounding the argument, and positioning the literature as support material – helping many students to make their own voice loud and clear as they discuss other people’s research.

When a concept map is organised around questions, supported by references to and quotes from various sources, it then becomes easy to draft paragraphs that start with a claim by the reviewer, and then refer to other voices to explain and illustrate the point.

Start with your list of questions. Once these are on the page (or screen), you can position them in any order you like. Play around with the organisation, until you have a sense of what might work best as an interesting sequence of ideas. Branching off from each question, add the sources of information that you have already matched to that question, and will use as evidence in discussion of the question. It’s easy to draft a paragraph, when you know its purpose and place in the unfolding text.

Paragraphing is a key organisational structure in academic writing. Long or short, a good paragraph has a function. It’s a rhetorical move within a text, taking the reader from one idea to the next, and carrying the thread of an argument. In academic writing in English, a paragraph typically starts with a claim, then explains or illustrates it, and provides supporting evidence of some kind.

One thing that can make student writing seem too ‘descriptive’ is a tendency to begin too many paragraphs with the names of other researchers, rather than a clear point about their work. There needs to be a recurrent signalling through the text that it’s all about the interpretation being made by the reviewer, and the topic is generally indicated by being in first position. This is a large part of what is meant by ‘voice’ in academic writing. It’s basically the sense a reader gets of who is talking – whose voice we are mainly listening to as we read a review.

Elements of a story

The difference between presenting information and telling a story. Set the scene for further research – think about the various challenges of moving from description to telling a story that justifies new research.

What is an academic discussion? Exposition, argument, discussion…? You definitely need to write an outline of your review before you draft it – questioning, concept mapping and outlining aim to shift your mind from annotated bibliography to seeing the shape of a discussion of literature that will be interesting for someone else to read. What is a discussion in the context of academic writing? The difference between arguing and discussing, and what it means for your own reviewing of academic literature.

The research story: the shift from concept map to outline in developing thoughts about the literature, and planning a discussion (example).

Outlines: sketching a storyline: write an outline of your literature review as you currently imagine it. Shifting from timid descriptive reporting towards really engaged, interesting discussion of others’ work has to happen at several levels. This week it’s the big picture we’re focused on – the overall shape and purpose of your review. Designing a sound plan for a text that will interest and satisfy your readers involves asking lots of questions about what you are reading, and anticipating the sorts of questions your readers may have, and mobilizing the literature to help you answer them.

Once you have articulated good questions that your review could provide answers to, you need to think about how to present your topic to your readers. The same ‘information’ can always be presented in many different ways, and you need to think about what might work best for those reading your text for the first time:

  • chronological: eg the development of a particular technology, starting with the first invention of it, leading up to the current situation and remaining problems and setting the scene for your proposal for further research and development
  • maybe some of the problems and solutions described in the literature are more significant than others, and the points you want to make would be better presented like a story, effectively drawing the reader’s attention to your view of what has been significant; it might be regarded as simplistic and uncritical to give the impression that ‘progress’ is inevitable and smooth
  • a discussion of cause and effect: with you doing detective work to piece together the elements of a story about what has happened and what it all means, who is responsible and what can be done to solve a mystery or a problem

How you decide to organise your presentation depends on the analysis you’ve done so far. Concept mapping can help visualise the shape and logic of the story you are putting together. A good review is an engaging and convincing interpretation of others’research that sets the scene for new research.

Week 4: creating a draft

When you’re writing a literature review, part of the point of it is understanding what others have done and figuring out what you think. But also, it’s about communicating with others so they can understand your research topic and how it relates to other people’s research.

Levels of language:

  • as we collect material and read it carefully, and write notes to better understand it, we work out what we think, by paraphrasing and comparing what others have written
  • through formulating questions and articulating points, the purpose and shape of paragraphs becomes clearer, and with a sense of those big things emerging we can pay attention to the detail of wording and refining a text that someone else will want to read
  • the clearer the shape of the whole is before drafting, the easier it is to draft and edit text

From concept mapping to outlining:

  • the outline is a very linear structure, that captures the flow of a document, whereas the concept map might be more fluid and uncertain about the flow of information – it was concentrating on the ideas and relevant evidence, rather than how to present an argument to a reader
  • see blog post: the key points planned to lead the discussion are made in response to specific questions that were articulated at the concept mapping stage, where the literature was being analysed

Information, ideas, communication:

  • effective communication: “so much more than information”
  • the only way to really know what your research should be focusing on is to know what others have done, and the only way to really understand their work is to write about it, and how it relates to yours
  • a literature review isn’t just about the topic, it’s about someone becoming part of a community of scholars, and it’s a particular way of thinking and communicating; the literature review is a key part of how we keep the scientific game going, so when you do one, you’re not just writing a text – you’re joining in a social activity that’s got purpose
  • blog post on academic style
  • vocabulary and density (blog post):
    • technical, academic and everyday; Tom Cobb’s Vocab Profiler quickly categorises vocabulary in a text
    • in academic literature there is a much higher proportion of academic and technical words than in normal everyday talk; research suggests we can only read quickly and comfortably when we immediately recognise almost all the words in a text
    • once there is more than about 5% new words, reading speed slows down; academic discourse typically has over 10% of words that are not in common usage (sometimes as high as 40%), making it hard to read (and write) when you’re not used to it
    • other features: lexical density, the number of topic words in each sentence, due to the aim of saying a lot in a short space, and abstraction
    • noun groups: in academic writing information is mainly represented in the form of noun groups
    • it is not generally effective to begin a paragraph in academic writing with a question; better: put the topic of the paragraph in first position and make a claim that is elaborated on through the following sentences
    • the use of a topic sentence gives the reader a sense of direction and purpose

Negotiating positions and building relationships:

  • who is speaking, in what way, and how are they managing other perspectives
  • stance and attitude: text as dialogue and literature review as orchestration of voices; blog post
  • acknowledgement and critique: the way you refer to the work of other scholars is also your way into the conversation that academic writing represents; do you think of texts as mainly information, or equally expressions of attitude and negotiation between people?

Creating texture:

  • how a text weaves information and voices together into an effective reading experience
  • coherence and the flow of information: key aspects of readability
  • preview, review and paragraphing: signalling direction and providing evidence; a concept map and outline are key to this; once that kind of planning has been done, it’s quite easy to fill in the details and create a coherent text; if your outline articulates a sequence of claims, these can become topic sentences of paragraphs
    • paragraphs in academic writing generally start with a claim, which is then explained or elaborated in some way, and supported with evidence (references to literature) or example (blog post)
    • pre-viewing and re-viewing makes written language easier to process, as it tells the reader in a summarising way what is coming before presenting a lot of new information, and then reminds them after the presentation what they just read; have you noticed how much previewing and reviewing is going on in this course? : D

#FLlitreview: the literature review (1)

#FLlitrevew, aka Research writing: how to do a literature review, led by Emily Purser, Lecturer in Academic Language and Learning, University of Wollongong (@UOWFutureLearn). Four weeks from 26 Feb (part 2).

Not actually my first MOOC of 2018. I’m also in the throes of a content-heavy set of reruns on intercultural studies, with an entirely absent team of educators. Notes are being made, but really, I might as well read a textbook.

This one is also a rerun – review podcasts are already available and the teacher’s blog (nice touch!) already written, but it’s much more stimulating. The whole thing has a dynamic and feels exciting to work through – perhaps for this reason it’s attracting a lot more participant activity.

A gratifying feature is that the vids present an alternative take on the content rather than expanding/repeating it with a talking head. Back in 2011 when I first started watching vids and listening to podcasts I was much exercised by how it seemed to be just me who preferred reading – the information to value ratio for the the former just seemed too low.

You can scan-read something in a couple of minutes which it would take 10 minutes to present as a video. What about learning styles (or strategies; a myth?), I hear you cry? For me it’s rather a version of Ranganathan’s a book for every reader: a format for every type of info.

Often ‘just’ one medium is not enough. A video experience works better with slides, tweets or other commentary alongside in a kind of mashup, particularly when the vids are such hard work that you need slides and a transcript to zero in on key points. Transcripts offer scannability.

More: Evidence-based, informative and on YouTube?  | Using video: from passive viewing to active learning (inc flipping the classroom) | Videos as knowledge products | the more familiar you are with something, the less instruction you need

Week 1: what is a literature review and why write one?

It’s possible to write a simple literature review in a month, but a complex one might take a year or more, so this course aims to raise awareness, and focus on the necessary preparation, rather than the completion of a literature review…we’ll be thinking about the lit review as a genre – an important concept in developing understanding of language in context. We’ll be looking at it as a particular way of using language that ‘just works’ in an academic context – not just as a writing task, but also as a way of being academic.

There’s an accompanying teacher’s blog, How to do a lit review (first post), and an FB group. Blogging is encouraged.

What’s your topic of interest? What scholarly publications are there on the topic? What search terms should you use?

A good literature review:

  • details only what is necessary for a given purpose – it does not include everything you’ve read on the topic
  • focuses on ideas and relationships between ideas, not just on the authors
  • compares previous research studies, various sources of information, and different concepts or theoretical perspectives
  • does not indicate what the writer of the literature review thinks about the various studies and sources of information they are presenting
  • (doesn’t have to be chronological, but should be current)

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • provide context for a research hypothesis or question
  • ensure the research is original (ie not already published)
  • identify where and how new research fits into the existing body of literature in a particular field of study
  • highlight the strengths and weaknesses in previous research on a topic
  • make recommendations for further research

Types of literature review:

  • systematic: collecting literature/gathering info and putting it into a framework
  • descriptive: helps develop understandng
  • critical
  • argumentative: stating the problem
  • depends where you want to go…

Ways to document reading:

Looking at the surveys of current research is a very good way to begin a new research project, so if you’re not already familiar with review articles, now is a good time to find out about them.

Further reading:

Some people imagine a literature review as a logical presentation of factual information. Others see it as a long, complex, and interesting conversation with published peers – a relaxed engaging dialogue that moves in various directions, rich with learning. Others think of it more as a debate or TV talk show, where different ideas are explained and defended, and questions are answered. Others imagine it more like an orchestra or choir, where many different voices are directed by a strong conductor, who brings everyone together into a coherent symphony. There are probably many other ways of visualising the literature review too.

Week 2: where to begin?

Some reviews need to be comprehensive, but most need to be very narrowly focused – careful selection of sources demonstrates critical thinking as much as what is said about those sources.

We’ll start the process by just making a basic bibliography. And then we’ll talk a bit about referencing styles and which referencing style you need to be using. And then we’ll get into annotating your bibliography. That’s not just summarising what other people have written, but critically evaluating it. And then we’ll go into a more systematic approach to critically compare different sources on the same topic.

Building a bibliography

A statement of your research problem and question will help you judge which sources will be most and least relevant. You need to read broadly on your topic, but you also need to set very clear boundaries of relevance, so you mainly read what will actually help you discuss the specific problem your research needs to address.

Gathering information:

  • develop your list of search terms as you read, picking up key words from publications, realising which are most relevant
  • as well as topic terms you should include ones that help you find research using the theoretical approach and methods you’re interested in (quantitative or qualitative, tests or surveys, empirical or postmodernism…)
  • keep a careful record of what you’re finding online; begin and continue your searching for information by noting down all the search terms you’re using, where you’re looking, and what you find (or don’t find)

Documenting sources:

  • the bibliography: a professionally referenced list of readings, a useful guide for reading that defines a specific area; the record of your reading, showing the development of your knowledge of the topic and what other researchers are doing
  • your final written discussion of literature may not include all the items you’ve selected and read, but your bibliography keeps it all together in one place
  • all entries have to be accurate and adequate, so you and anyone else can always quickly trace the source of anything
  • reference lists and styles: hmm bib software lets you reformat, as long as all of the elements are in place…this stuff is even boring to me…
  • basic bibliography post | Zotero example

Adding annotations

Writing notes is a great way to start your writing of a literature review. It’s easier to develop a critical discussion when your bibliography includes many well written annotations, as you have already articulated what you think about the sources and can then quickly compare them.

  • record your immediate thoughts as well as the publication details of your selected literature
  • move from summarising to evaluating the material, making notes on what you think about the work and how it relates to your own research plans

Summarising:

  • paraphrase the abstract into your own words – this process creates memory; you won’t have time to write careful annotations for everything you read, but it’s definitely worth doing so for publications that seem most important for your review
  • a simple and effective technique for paraphrasing is to read a paper, or even just the abstract, then look away from the text and write down:
    • what is the study about?
    • what problem does it address?
    • how did they conduct the research?
    • what were the main findings?
    • why is it important?
  • this is the structure of a research article, and creates a working memory of the texts read, building your ability to write a review
  • start with publication details for what looks like an interesting paper
    • copy the published abstract under the reference
    • stop looking at the abstract and write a paraphrase, noting the facts, without any personal opinion
  • paraphrasing software?? and don’t forget Walter Benjamin and the art of copying out
  • annotating post

Evaluating other’s work: your review in the end is going to be much more than a summary of what others have done and said – it should be primarily about what you think of the research you are reading about. The more you note your responses to readings, the more material you have to work with as you develop your argument.

It’s critically important to recognise what would be agreed by anyone as an accurate summary of what another has written, and what is a personal interpretation; we need to constantly practise and develop ability to distinguish between description and evaluation of reading material, because writing about others’ work is complex and delicate

Annotating post 2 illustrates the difference between description of what someone else has said or done and evaluative response to it, showing the progression from basic bibliographic entry to annotation.

Writing this kind of annotation really helps you prepare for writing the critical discussion of literature, as it forces you to consider and note down both the information and your own thoughts about it, and how someone else’s work relates to your own research project.

Note: using screen annotation software you can add quick comments on PDFs and websites: a.nnotate, and hypothes.is, or diigo

Aim to make notes about other researchers’ work in these three ways:

  • synopsis of the facts (what authors have done, found and said)
  • comments on aspects of their research design or findings that you find interesting, new, important, problematic, limited etc
  • comment about how the publication relates to your research project (what seems most useful for your own quest to answer a particular question or articulate a particular problem)

Three distinct functions of the annotation:

  • a summary of the publication
  • adding appraisal: more personal response and evaluation (what I think about it)
  • explanation of relevance: why the source is or isn’t useful to the review I want to write (what I think I might be able to do with this information)

Finally, talking to consolidate (Padlet). Going through the process of turning what you read into a talk is the best way to make you think about what you are reading and articulate your thoughts quickly.

Comparing sources 

Compared to undergraduate essays and reports, research writing is generally expected to consider and critically compare more sources. The research writer is also expected to define for themselves what constitutes a valid body of literature to read and discuss, to frame a serious investigation that will produce new knowledge. The task here is not simply to find information and use it to develop an argument or show some understanding of a topic. The aim is to consider the work of other researchers as a body of knowledge, which provides context for further research.

When you need to compare many different sources, it helps to use a spreadsheet (blog post) to keep track of your search activity. When you make notes in this way it’s easy to quickly see patterns of similarity and difference across a range of publications, and draw conclusions. You might note, for example, that across 25 different studies on your topic most have used the same research method, or some have produced very different findings, or none address the particular question you want to pursue. This kind of observation will help you frame your own research project.

The key to a good literature review is generally quality rather than quantity, but you may need to actually write a stand-alone, systematic review of literature, as a publication of your own.

 

#FLmultilingua 3: everyone is a language learner

Week 3 of #FLmultilingua had two foci:

  • language learning as creative art
  • creative arts in language learning

The creative arts section was not for me, although the theory of migratory aesthetics looks worth a closer look (see Essays | an essay | 2006 exhibition). The rest of the week was theory heavy; notes follow.

The capabilities approach: the freedom to achieve potential

Developed by Sen & Nussbaum, an evaluative framework to assess individuals’ well-being. Aims to develop an environment that promotes ‘humanly rich goals’ (Nussbaum, 2006).

The term well-being is interpreted in terms of the freedom to live the life that an individual has reason to value. The notion of reason to value is important, as individuals must be able to choose their own values and objectives upon reflection.

The notion of capabilities refers to the freedoms to achieve what individuals are actually able to do and to be, in other words their potential. The actual achievement, the practical realisation of one’s chosen way of life is defined as functioning. The conversion of capabilities into functioning is determined by agency, which is the ability of people to act and bring about change according to one’s own values and objectives (Sen, 1999).

Individuals’ agency, freedoms and achieved functionings are not perceived in isolation as they strengthen society and, at the same time, are affected by socio-political-economic-environmental and cultural constraints. Development is conceptualized as enhancing freedom and removing obstacles in order to foster human flourishing.

Sen leaves his approach deliberately open, without specifying what capabilities should count as valuable, as he believes that this process needs public consultation and public reasoning. Conversely, Nussbaum argues for a list of universal capabilities, to be underwritten by constitutions and underpinned by the question “What does a life worthy of human dignity require?” (Nussbaum, 2000: 14). She develops a provisional list consisting of ten capabilities, based on two overarching capabilities: practical reason and affiliation.

Education is considered a meta-capability as it enables individuals to nurture all the other capabilities they value. Nussbaum  advocates three main capabilities for human development: critical examinationaffiliation and narrative imagination.

Three central capabilities for education:

  • critical examination: linked to the capacity to reflective thinking and self-reflection; Socratic dialogue as a central tool to guide critical thinking logically
  • affiliation: the ability to perceive oneself as a member of a local group, but also as bond to all other human beings, tied to them by recognition, love and compassion
  • narrative imagination: a combination of the first two capabilities; the ability to take the perspective of others, both consciously and compassionately; this capability of empathy is cultivated through literature and the arts (Von Wright, 2002: 410)

The celebration of heterogeneity and diversity is central to the capability approach. Sen encourages intercultural dialogue that “celebrates the multiplicity of identities” (Crosbie, 2014: 92) and warns us against plural monoculturalism which poses obstacles to real intercultural dialogue.

The capabilities approach encourages educators to perceive language education beyond competency and skilled-based models, ie beyond the acquisition of skills to a more intercultural language education: “Skills and learning outcomes serve an instrumental dimension of education that follows neoliberal imperatives”.

Crosbie identifies 12 capabilities for language and intercultural studies (the capability L2 literacy and communication consists of the traditional language skills and sub-skills):

Multilingual and multimodal literacies in the classroom

What are the implications of linguistic diversity for educational practices? There followed a summary of Burcu et al (2014). Snippets:

  • until recently, children’s home languages have been at best overlooked or ignored; at worst, they have been treated as an impediment to the acquisition of the dominant language, something to be actively discouraged (the tosproget issue in Denmark)
  • in most western countries, linguistic diversity is increasingly the norm; greater mobility means that more and more pupils are in contact with a wide range of linguistic backgrounds, and may have hybrid, multiple and dynamic forms of identity
  • while the explicit role of education is to allow children to fully develop their potential, this does not usually extend to the wealth represented by the linguistic repertoires so many children have access to
  • the barriers created by an educational system that privileges the dominant language(s) while disregarding others can result in loss of the home language, disengagement and poor literacy outcomes

Non-verbal meaning-making strategies

Most of our everyday communication is translingual – we draw on a diversity of codes, not just language, inc body language, visuals… We use images, symbols and icons to make meaning in conversations and understand the world around us. We call these semiotic codes. In addition to that, our conversations never happen in an ‘empty space’. They are always embedded in a context (the environment, the speakers’ agenda etc) which provides meaning also.

How useful and ‘effective’ are such non-verbal meaning-making strategies? Do images easily translate cross-culturally or are visual strategies, like language, a more complicated medium of communication than we initially consider it to be?

Final thoughts

The thrust of the MOOC can be found in Alison’s statement at the end of her TED talk: “One language cannot explain the whole world”. Is anyone saying it can? And this is my issue: it’s all very lovely and well-meaning, another stick for white liberals to beat themselves with, but it’s felt increasingly one-sided as the weeks went on. Things are rather more complex than presented, and the migrant (as in refugee) narrative finally took over.

Updates: International Mother Language Day was in the UK largely another exercise in guilt (Bilingualism Matters’ Refugee languages welcome!) and in DK a chance to celebrate the dansk; news stories on the day included the Social Democrats’ proposal to remove the right to benefits from citizens who don’t speak Danish and the proposed banning of teaching in Arabic in private Muslim schools (both redacted as too depressing). See The Salzburg Statement for a Multilingual World (no Danish translation when I looked).

#FLmultilingua 2: language and power

Week 2 of #FLmultilingua:

  • explored what it means to speak ‘good English’ and to have one’s language scrutinised for observance of rules of sound and grammar
  • looked at the power that lies behind the authority to decide whether a language is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and to impose some standards over others
  • reflected on the concepts of ‘language deficit’ and ‘language plenty’, and about the ways in which language policies work to establish which languages have value, and which don’t

Learning to live in a multilingual world

Exploring language and power in the context of globalisation: the expectation to speak ‘good English’ has the power to institutionally re-define an individual’s affective relationship with the language of their family and ancestors.

Verbal hygiene: can or should we clean up language?

‘Verbal hygiene’ is a term coined by sociolinguist Deborah Cameron in the first edition of her book, published in 1995.

As Cameron (2012) defines it, verbal hygiene refers to the “[…] motley collection of discourses and practices through which people attempt to ‘clean up’ language and make its structure or its use conform more closely to their ideals of beauty, truth, efficiency, logic, correctness and civility”(p. vii). Central to Cameron’s discussion is the idea that, behind the ostensible desire to regulate language and ensure standards, verbal hygiene practices hide a range of deeper social, moral and political anxieties.

All very emotive, but the rest of the step was unrelated to these issues, making instead the case against state monolingualism (or societal language; just substitute Danish for English):

Speaking English has become a touchstone in discussions of what it now referred to as social ‘cohesion’, ‘integration’ or ‘inclusion’. Essentially these terms are code for ‘assimilation’: both new immigrants and settled minorities must demonstrate their allegiance to British culture and values.

More verbal hygiene: book | vid | article.

Quiz intro: “Language is the site of power struggles. Verbal hygiene may be an unavoidable component of our capacity to reflect on language and is not necessarily always negative. However, the imposition of norms and rules hides power relations and should not just be taken at face value. Questions about who has the right to prescribe, for whom, what they prescribe and for what purpose can be asked to expose these power relations…Many of the answers you give here will be correct. This is another way to demonstrate the nuanced aspects of verbal hygiene. While there are subtle differences in understandings, consider which of these definitions you prefer for your situation.”

  1. Verbal hygiene is…a set of practices that aim to prescribe specific grammar rules | newspapers’ style guides and ‘politically correct’ language | requests for migrants to learn the language of the country where they now live
  2. People engage in verbal hygiene practices because…they worry about a language disappearing or becoming impoverished | they are concerned that some words or phrases may be offensive or inaccurate | they wish to ensure that people can communicate effectively and understand each other
  3. Verbal hygiene practices are not simply about language. They also…stand for anxieties about social change and become more widespread at times of economic or political insecurity | are symbolic of demands for assimilation made of particular groups of people and of anxiety or fear about the ‘alien other’ | express unequal power relations between those who can prescribe forms of linguistic conformity and those who have to adapt to this (or resist it).

What is the danger in letting some languages die?

Are there any dangers in adopting fewer languages worldwide? Like ecosystems and biodiversity, are languages something that should be actively protected?

The Unesco Atlas of world languages in danger estimates that today there are as many as 2465 languages with varying degrees of vulnerability. This…raises important questions about their future, the cultures which they represent, the cultural identity of their speakers, diversity of ideas and the linguistic diversity in the world.

Language, especially our mother tongue, is something we very often take for granted. We acquire it at a very early stage in our life and imitate linguistic behaviours, eg politeness or directness of people in our surroundings. These concepts, which usually have been taken for granted, become less obvious when we start learning another language and new cultural norms…

[David Crystal] compares a language system to an ecosystem in which, what is important, is not the individual unit but the interdependence of its various elements and their harmonious functioning. Similarly to biological species, languages do not function in isolation but develop by contact with others. If one of them were to die, this might have serious consequences on other languages in the same ecosystem. Diversity, he adds, is important for the survival of mankind. If we have a look at the natural ecosystem, evolution is what makes species stronger and guarantees their survival. The greater the variety, the stronger the ecosystem is…

Language is also an important part of one’s identity. This is a tool which connects and identifies us with other members of the same language community. Losing a language could therefore mean a loss of who we are.

From Being human at Language Fest:

We don’t all have one language in common. Without ‘naturally’ shared cultures and languages but with the desire to communicate and connect, we are at each other’s mercy. Falling back into English, a ‘foreign’ language to us all, and one that most people in the room are only just learning, is not an option. There is no ‘neutral’, no ‘pure’ way to communicate. We can’t easily cloak our communicative difficulties with a (supposed) lingua franca. There is no easy way to artificially smooth the sharp linguistic edges of our intercultural communication. Insisting on English now could mean silencing this group’s self-expression, dismiss their Lebenswelt and suppress those unexpected encounters that might be potentially meaningful to us all. But how then to connect when all we can bring is good will and our linguistic vulnerability?

On languaging

Swain defines languaging as a (2006: 98) “process of making meaning and shaping knowledge and experience through language”, with language learning a process rather than a definable outcome, a journey taken by language learners through which they have an opportunity to explore and discover new meanings, learn and internalise new knowledge and expand their range of experiences.

Example: French immersion programmes in Canada in which students were tasked with writing a story in French; students carrying out the exercise required used both French and English; English to negotiate meaning and mediate differences between the languages, to help students to organise their ideas, negotiate the differences in meaning between French and English as well as to internalise new meanings.

Their research supports Vygotsky’s view that the language learner ‘uses…the native language as a mediator between the world of objects and the new language’ (Vygotsky, 1986: 161). Learners very often build their new linguistic identity and their newly acquired understanding of the country (or countries) where the language is spoken through the experiences and knowledge of their mother tongue.

While our mother tongues are necessary to negotiate new meanings, it is a newly acquired language that expands our knowledge and self-understanding in a profound way. Mikhail Bakhtin observed that ‘language is a social event’ and as such profoundly affects the learners’ understanding of the world around. The more languages one speaks, the more alternative modes of knowledge one can create and, consequently, comprehend.

From the quiz:

  • languaging…can be defined as having a go, trying a new language…a process in which one creates new experiences through language…does not concern itself only with learning a language
  • learning a new language involves…using one’s mother tongue as a mediator between two languages…creating a new identity through analysing our first language…expanding our knowledge and self-understanding

Alison Phipps (2014) in her TED talk ‘ Learning to live in multilingual worlds’ looks at languaging as ‘having a go,’ ‘trying a new language and learning to live in a multilingual world.’ This means that one needs to leave a zone of linguistic comfort and perfect articulation of their mother tongue in order to embark on a bumpy journey of discovering a new linguistic and cultural world; “one language cannot fully explain all the meanings encapsulated in the world”. She calls for a more ethically-oriented way of conceiving the value of languages:

I think it’s really important we learn the languages which have shaped the histories of the places where we grow up and where we live. So within Scotland, those would be the languages that have shaped our religion, but which have also lived amongst us. It would be important here for us to really understand Gaelic, and Scots alongside English, but also to understand ancient Greek, Hebrew, Latin, languages which have shaped the culture, the buildings, you see roundabout us, being part of the projects of making a land and a country.

But equally, at this moment in time, it’s really important that we learn the language of our neighbours, that we ask the question, what is it the languages of our neighbours are, and how might we meet one another and greet one another in some of those different languages? It’s important that we learn to speak the language of trade, but also of humanitarian aid.

#FLmultilingua 1: language riches

Multilingual learning for a globalised world, FutureLearn MOOC, three weeks from 16 October, from the University of Glasgow.

Spotted this one during #FLemi, and was sorry to have missed it – I even watched the hangouts on YouTube – but it’s on again! And I’m contributing to discussions. Note: all quotes edited.

This course offers you the opportunity to explore multilingual education and how it can impact and improve education and even wider society. We will discuss why languages matter, and consider how languages challenge the way we live, every day.

Our languages are an essential part of who we are as human beings. They are instruments of communication and are often a source of dignity and of human pride. Our life experiences and views of the world are bound up in our languages. Our sense of self might be strengthened by our ability to speak the language we choose or curtailed by our inability to understand the language that speaks to us. Some scholars even say that the right to speak one’s languages should be established as an essential part of the right to be oneself. They suggest that this language right should be honoured in all forms of communication.

English is the language of worldwide communication. Should this change? Should people’s personal language practices influence the way we communicate on a global scale? How might the claim for people’s language rights challenge the language arrangements in our societies? What is gained and what is lost from speaking just one language?

In this course you will explore how people’s language practice, and the personal connection people have to the language(s) they speak, provoke important philosophical and pedagogical questions around the ways we form personal relationships, engage in business relations and even view the world around us.

You will:

  • be introduced to different multilingual environments, consider what these mean for learning languages, and encounter some of the latest research in researching for working multilingually
  • experience and critically evaluate the idea of active citizenship, discovering ways in which language minorities can be empowered through the equal treatment of all languages and cultures
  • deepen your understanding of other languages and cultures through consideration of language rights, and films and workshops developed through their practices
  • address the ways in which the creative and performing arts can help translate meanings and enhance understandings in multilingual environments

Should we all just speak one language?

Glasgow as a multicultural city with inhabitants hailing from across the globe

Week 1 approached the question above historically, ethically and aesthetically, celebrated the language riches in our learning community and reflected on the sensory qualities of languages and the value of exposing oneself to unfamiliar language sounds. The terms monolingualism and multilingualism were clarified and pressing ethical questions surrounding some forms of structural monolingualism were explored.

Consider the language riches you bring to the course from all over the world

Being able to speak your language is an emotional and ‘embodied’ affair. It can evoke memories and even bodily sensations. Happiness hormones might arise when you hear somebody address you in your mother tongue, especially when you are far away from home and feeling a bit low or depressed. Languages are an essential part of who we are as human beings. They unfold their beauty best when they are (it sounds so simple) performed.

Did you ever wish to ‘go native’ in another language and abandon your language roots? – “I would discover new parts of myself, parts of myself that belong with that language” vs your’ language is “the language with which I communicate with myself…it defines who I am”. But you can, of course, have more than one, depending on both time and place. Can you have more than one at the same time? Do the languages you ‘have’ make up your identity?

Do you take on another persona when you speak another language? “language being so tightly interwoven with culture so you have to conform to different social and cultural norms when you speak in another language”. See Aneta Pavlenko on emotions and multilingualism and the bilingual mind.

Jan Čulík highlights the strategic importance of language-based study of foreign cultures, arguing that the west is making the mistake of interpreting non-English speaking cultures incorrectly, exclusively on the basis of its own cultural experience. The impact of this is global destabilisation.

It’s all about context, both in your persona when you speak another language and when “everyone speaks English”, where it’s easy to think everyone is using a shared cultural lens. Interpreters still needed!

Monolingualism and multilingualism in today’s world

David Gramling (Researching Multilingually) and The invention of monolingualism (2016):

Monolingualism became a thinkable structure for imagining the multiply-languaged world round about the late 17th century…the word is gaining new political power, and symbolically de-competencing people not perceived to be sufficiently cosmopolitan, communicative, or competent in matters of global relevance.

Reactionary multilingualism: becoming multilingual in an orderly way will solve all kinds of social frictions, socioeconomic divides, cultural misunderstandings, and apparently, irreconcilable religious commitments between Islam and Christian secularism.

Until the mid 2000s British politicians were relatively uninterested in what language citizens or residents chose to speak. Many conservatives saw any pressure upon people to speak a certain language, in a certain way, as an invasion of the kind of privacy protected as far back as the Magna Carta. Only recently has it become a common assumption that civic and community life is at its best when it happens through many cultures, but in one shared language.

Real monolingualism lies not with individual speakers, and the way they communicate or don’t communicate with the world, but with a new technological and technocratic effort in the last quarter century to make all of the world’s languages do similar things, and work in the same general symbolic direction.

Computer scientists are hard at work at erasing the problem of language diversity, such that, eventually, it will be unnecessary for us to learn each other’s languages the hard way. This process requires reducing each language to the common denominator of meaning that all other languages have. And this urge to make languages themselves translatable, similar, and manageable is what I call monolingualism.

(The technological drive for the universal transposability of meaning has given us the GILT industry, which promises to instantaneously transpose and distribute monetized content into scores of linguistic markets, peopled by imaginary end-user monolinguals…monolingualism is a much more modest and therefore effective vessel for (re)organizing meaning than slogans like Monolingualism can be cured! tend to convey.)

Resisting monolingualism may mean deepening into our own local meanings. Delighting and growing through those meanings, honouring the historical and social richness of our language repertoires, and expecting that others do the same. So becoming willing to engage in difficult, human, and often rudimentary dialogue with others about those meanings, constitutes true multilingualism. And no online translator can do that for us.

See Simon Jenkins: no point in learning languages (riposte | Mary Beard). Hmm…substituting cultural for lingual has parallels, but not a direct ‘translation’. On language-based study of cultures, GCSE French is about as instructive as a city break.

From revolutionary monolingualism to reactionary multilingualism: Monolingualism: a user’s guide  (19pp) | The wager of critical monolingualism studiesHard and soft multilingualism | Alison Phipps: What does it mean to be languaged in today’s world?

Linguistic imperialism (see British Council): ‘a world, a culture’ attached to each language can paradoxically empower and disempower its speakers depending on political and personal circumstances:

linguistic adjustment to the world around us can be a complex and deeply penetrating process. The process is full of losses, gains and paradoxes. Whether we live all our lives in one country, whether we migrate, become displaced or travel we need languages and sooner or later we’ll come across the power of a dominant language. How we deal with this power and whether we uphold it or subvert it, whether we use it or abuse it depends mostly on us. Let us hope that no matter how we face this challenge, our humanity comes out of it intact.

-> is it necessary for everyone living in the same territory to speak the same language? language as a tool (if you use a tool the wrong way you may have problems), as social capital; but it is more than communication and goes beyond the linguistic – part of one’s identity, involving all the senses, emotions, body language…

-> it’s about identity and culture; when English is used as a lingua franca it’s lost its context: is this then linguistic imperialism?; usage can cause issues for native speakers, from misuse of words (tights are not y fronts) through misunderstandings to not being able to express yourself properly and giving up: “The language situation prevents us from doing certain things, like making jokes.” (Sherry Simon)

-> the “everyone speaks English” mantra masks cultural differences

And at #edfringe17 (more)…

#FLJacobites: an object lesson

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a nice concise three weeks from 18 September, from the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, who have an exhibition on the go. See also the Jacobite Trail.

What makes our course distinctive is its focus on material culture. That is, on the objects, clothes, images and items used or seen by those living in the period that is sometimes called the Jacobite century, from 1688 to 1788.

Now I don’t want to brag, but I won a school history prize for a BPC project, including a relief map of the Jacobite advance and retreat and transcriptions of some Jacobite songs (the hand of my father in both). I’ve also been to Culloden twice and have my own object, a BPC shortbread tin now used for storing sugar.

This MOOC is not my first nostalgia trip – see #FLRobertBurns. Both are ‘not my period’, but somehow it’s rather different when it’s _your_ heritage. Interestingly, my aunt, exiled in England, was rather more into her ‘heritage’ than my mother, living in Scotland.

What is material culture?

Material culture is a way of talking about objects – talking about them, but also their study. It brings together two otherwise quite different things – material implies something base, perhaps something earthy, whereas culture is much more abstract, lofty, intellectual, maybe. Bringing these terms together produces a sort of creative friction, enabling us to access the past in concrete, tangible ways through the objects that have survived. The past as a richly furnished landscape of objects – an objectscape.

Material culture can mean different things to different specialists, but at its heart it is about the study of objects, usually from the past. We can use these objects to access the past, even if they are behind glass – we can see is how people in the past interacted with them.

Viccy Coltman’s pictogram with the four key themes around an object:

One comment: “I have really enjoyed linking the objects to the history to bring the history alive…material culture is a great way of getting my pupils involved…anchoring the concrete to the abstract”.

For more see the Tangible Things MOOC (again). And just spotted in CPH:

According to Kathryn Hughes, objects have become the dominant way of understanding and interpreting the past. She gives A history of the world in 100 objects as an example – objects make better stories than timelines. Its sister programme, Germany: memories of a nation, Neil MacGregor’s peerless series and exhibition (ten objects), certainly worked for me.

More objects linkage: The Brontë cabinet: three lives in nine objects | People’s History Museum’s Object of the Month | teaching & object-based learning | Prime Ministers’ props | Living with the gods, Neil MacGregor’s new 30! part series | Sharing Stories. Speaking Objects (Weltmuseum Wien)

I noted my first objects exhibition at Gdansk’s Solidarity Centre, the End of War in 45 artefacts, emphatically not in any set order, an “inspiration incentive to reflect on the complexity of historic events…and the ambiguity of their outcomes”. Museums in Poland have certainly embraced the objects approach – the Museum of Warsaw’s new core exhibition is The Things of Warsaw.

But has it all gone too far? See this shot from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, a room crammed with stuff which people shuffled round without showing much interest:

Locally, 99xVSTGN similarly felt just too enthusiastically random. See Heritage Futures’ Profusion theme for more on this, and clutter generally. Instant update: just spotted, Edinburgh Alphabet, more than 300 objects grouped around a letter of the alphabet (with B for Burns), and Edinburgh’s 101 objects.

BPC in bullets: what I learned (or had forgotten I knew)

Pre-BPC:

  • the Stuarts had ruled the Kingdom of Scotland since 1371; France, and several other countries, continued to support them as claimants to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland after (Catholic) James VII & II was deposed
  • James VII established a 1000-strong court in exile at a château close to Versailles; Louis XIV, James’ cousin, was determined to do all he could to secure James’ restoration
  • not all Jacobites were Catholic, in fact the majority were Episcopalian; most Jacobite courtiers were English, but the court also included Scots, Irish, French and Italians
  • in 1701 the 13 year old James Francis Edward (aka The Old Pretender) was recognised by both Louis XIV and the Pope as James VIII & III of Scotland, England and Ireland
  • James VIII eventually settled in Rome, where his sons Charles (BPC) and Henry were born, and mounted three campaigns taking advantage of political discontent in Britain, all of which fizzled out:
    • 1708: the 1707 Act of Union proved unpopular in Scotland, where it was perceived as an unhappy marriage of unequal partners
    • 1715: on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the throne passed to the unpopular George, the Protestant Elector of Hanover; the Unionist Earl of Mar threw in his lot with the Jacobites in an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne
    • 1719: James VIII had had to leave France as a condition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and with the death of Louis XIV in September 1715 he lost the support of the French; the Jacobite court in exile had no permanent home until James was offered the Palazzo del Rei in Rome by Pope Clement XI in 1719 – support for the exiled Stuarts shifted from France to Italy and Spain

BPC:

  • born in December 1720, an event commemorated in the medallic record as the great hope for the continuation of the Jacobite cause and the longed-for Stuart restoration
  • in the late 1730s and early 1740s the Jacobite court in exile became a brilliant social centre, optimistic that BPC would finally recover the thrones of his father and grandfather
  • James VIII knew that a restoration attempt would need French military assistance; with war between France and Hanoverian Britain renewed in 1743 and BPC coming of age, James named him Prince Regent, with authority to act in his name
  • BPC obtained the support of Louis XV, who supported a botched campaign in 1744
  • BPC landed on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 5 July 1745; thousands of Jacobites rallied to the cause
  • BPC raised the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan, near Fort William, on 19 August; since 1815 the Glenfinnan Monument has provided a poignant reminder
  • the Jacobite army marched south unopposed and by 17 September was in control of Edinburgh; at noon James VIII was proclaimed King, with BPC confirmed as Prince Regent
  • on 21 September BPC led the Jacobites to victory in the first major battle of the campaign, the Battle of Prestonpans; Sir John Cope, leading the government forces at this time, was forced to retreat to Berwick on Tweed, as immortalised in song
  • for the next six months BPC rode or marched with his supporters from Scotland through England, taking Carlisle and Manchester, reaching as far south as Derby
  • the Jacobite forces numbered just under 6000 men and included French and Irish troops; four French ships had been despatched with weapons and supplies, although the expected support from English Jacobites and promised French reinforcements failed to materialise
  • the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II, and like BPC just 24, was recalled from the war in Flanders to take command of the Hanoverian forces at Lichfield, just south of Derby, forming a three-way threat with General Wade approaching from the north and an army gathering on Finchley Common to defend London
  • on Friday, 6 December, a day known to Jacobites as Black Friday, BPC’s commanders advised him to retreat north
  • at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 January a Hanoverian force commanded by General Henry Hawley was subjected to the Highland charge, previously successful at the battle of Prestonpans – the last Jacobite victory
  • by 14 April the Jacobite army was camped at Culloden, outside Inverness; their numbers were depleted, in part by dispirited and hungry men returning to their homes in the Highlands
  • the moor was flat and open, good for the Duke of Cumberland’s forces with their regular cavalry and artillery and very different from Prestonpans, where the Jacobites had been able to use their swords and targes for up-close, one-to-one armed combat…it didn’t end well

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Maps above from the MOOC. See also Escape Penrith, who includes the escape from Culloden. All very handy, although a relief map in plaster of Paris can do the job too.

After BPC:

  • after Culloden BPC spent five months evading capture in the Highlands before sailing to the safety of France; enter (briefly) Flora MacDonald, a dominant part of the Jacobite legend
  • the British army pursued the Jacobites who had been scattered after Culloden with little mercy, the beginning of a campaign of reprisals intended to ensure that the Highlands would never again provide military support for the Jacobite cause
  • a series of measures was designed to attack the power structures and martial culture of the Highland clans, with the carrying of weapons and the wearing of highland dress in Scotland banned and clan chiefs stripped of their powers of justice; the Highlands was brought under the full control of the Hanoverian state
  • BPC finally returned to France in September 1746; he continued to be driven by his dynastic ambitions for a Stuart restoration but over the next three decades faced a series of setbacks and disappointments
  • France recognised the Hanoverian succession, and by the end of 1748 BPC was exiled to Avignon
  • James VIII died in 1766 in Rome; BPC ‘inherited’ the right to become Charles III, but without recognition from the Pope and Europe’s Catholic monarchs this claim had no authority
  • in 1747 BPC’s brother Henry became a cardinal and was ordained as a priest (in that order)
  • BPC died in 1788 leaving no legitimate offspring; hence Henry became Henry I and IX, changing his arms to have them surmounted with a crown representing his royal status, but not pressing his claim (although there are still some keepers of the flame)
  • as a popular Bishop of Frascati Henry rose to some of the highest positions in the Vatican, dying in 1807

Romanticising Jacobitism

Some of the most iconic images and songs associated with BPC are posthumous. He particularly flourished in the creative imaginations of 19th century authors, painters, poets and musicians, but his story continues to inspire. The 19th century romantic imagery of BPC has also been re-used countless times as a marketing tool, printed on souvenirs and absorbed into the iconography of Bonnie Scotland.

The BBC has a handy debunking post.

my shortbread tin, showing BPC aged 16

Allan Ramsay (1713-84) painted both BPC and Flora MacDonald from life; his ‘lost’ portrait, painted in late October 1745 at Holyrood Palace, was found in 2014 and saved for the nation in 2016. Which was handy, as a portrait in a suit of armour was shown to be of Henry, rather than his older brother, in 2009.

The Ramsay portrait shows BPC wearing court dress and a wig, ie as a member of the European social and political élite. Mainly though BPC adopted Highland dress during this period to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry and display his allegiance to the clans. Note to self: check the image on the aforementioned shortbread tin.

In the early 19th century, after Henry’s death ended the Jacobite claim to the throne and emotions were less raw, the romantic Jacobite legend really kicked in. Walter Scott (1771–1832; Abbotsford) wrote three novels drawing on the Jacobite campaigns; Waverley (1814), Rob Roy (1817) and Redgauntlet (1824). He also amassed a diverse and quirky collection of associated objects and organised the visit of George IV to Scotland in August 1822, the first reigning British monarch to visit Scotland in nearly two centuries. Ample tartan pageantry was included, elevating the kilt (not literally) to a key component in Scotland’s national identity.

Of the songs, both Will Ye No’ Come Back Again, attributed to Lady Nairne, Carolina Oliphant (1766-1845), and Burns’ Charlie Is My Darling date from the 1790s. The Skye Boat Song, perhaps the most popular song associated with BPC, was first published almost 150 years after the events, in 1884, with lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton. An 1892 poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone, has been set to the same music, and was recently adapted (ahem) as the theme tune for Outlander.

The Outlander series of novels and associated television series by Diana Gabaldon (blog) is the latest reinterpretation of the period, generating huge interest; I’ll stick with DK Broster, thanks.

#FLCulturalCities: cultural heritage and the city

Update: I also audited the European University Institute’s second MOOC, Cultures and identities in Europe (#FLeuropeans), which ran for three weeks from 16 October and was presented in the same textbooky style, with far too many rambling vids hampered by English-as-an-academic lingua-franca serving to obfuscate; copious notes made

Cultural heritage and the city from the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (@RobSchuCentre) at the European University Institute in Florence, three weeks from 4 September.

Cultural heritage is usually conceived in national or religious terms….today, however, large urban centres emerge as hubs of heritage creation and consumption. Cities brand their own cultural heritage as hubs of artistic creation through museums, galleries, markets of artistic goods, and urban-to-urban networks. They also develop their own policies and brand their cultural institutions.

We shall locate cities as a special type of actor, ‘owners’ of their own heritage, but situated in a multi-level field between international organisations and national actors, as well as practitioners.

The course will discuss how heritage can become a lever for growth, how it contributes to processes of socio-economic transformation. We also discuss the role of special events located in cities such as Olympic Games or programmes such as the European Capitals of Culture in valorising the heritage of a city.

Very wordy and content-crammed MOOC, more like a textbook than a course. There follows some lengthy notes.

Week 1: cultural heritage in an urbanising world

What is cultural heritage?

  • something that belongs to the past? something inherited? archaeological sites, historical buildings, statues, but also festivals, songs and storytelling
  • traditional view: material sites like archaeological monuments, palaces, or churches and places of worship, paintings and sculptures (tangible heritage)
  • now expanded to include:
    • artistic practices (dancing, music, rituals, traditional medicine, cooking traditions, sports)
    • festivals and carnivals
    • ideas, rituals and ways of doing things (intangible or immaterial heritage)
  • further expanded to include:
    • natural sites, specific plants or animal species – the natural heritage of a country or a place
    • intangible practices embedded in physical relationships with concrete things (objects, places, people); even ‘intangible’ heritage is tightly entwined with the material world
  • official heritage: sites, objects, and practices that have been officially catalogued and recognised by national and/or international authorities
  • unofficial heritage: practices and sites developed by groups of citizens not yet officially recognized as ‘heritage’ (the terms ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ do not express judgements of value or quality but rather realities of labelling and recognition)
  • increasing democratisation of heritage creation, with a closer focus on what communities feel is their heritage and the need to recognise new unofficial forms of heritage

Heritage is about how the past informs the present and is actually used in the present, something communities cherish. It implies ways of categorising objects and traditions – the power of labelling and classifying. It is vulnerable as it may be lost because of destruction, loss, or decay, and more than a collection of things – heritage is about the relationship that a community, nation, city, or ethnic or religious minority constructs with its past. It is a framework within which people are socialised.

What is culture?

Culture is a type of knowledge, a system of meaning and the context within which behaviours, events, processes and institutions are situated. Culture is the set of mental categories that we learn as we grow up and which help us organise our behaviour and interpret our experiences.

Thus culture is mostly about ideas and behaviour, however it has a close link with the material world. Culture – like intangible heritage – exists and is manifested in the interaction of people with one another and in connection to their material environment.

Heritage has a stronger material connotation than culture and is oriented towards the past. However both culture, as a system of meaning, and heritage, as a system of tangible and intangible objects and practices, contribute to forging the sense of belonging to a community.

Definitions of heritage according to the cultural context

Heritage is a very elastic, and at times quite elusive, concept that carries with it a lot of baggage, and the baggage in different languages is quite different. Words shift in different historical and spatial contexts.

In British English there are various layers of meanings deriving from its use in different spheres, in policy and academia, but also in daily life (the lottery). In Italy the equivalent concept of ‘patrimonio culturale’ refers rather to an expert-driven approach, and as such a top-down discourse tends to monopolise the use of the concept. Dansk? Kulturarv.

Cultural heritage policies

Cultural heritage studies and policies emerged along with the socio-economic transformations of the second half of the 20th century. Nowadays cultural heritage policies also refer to activities and objects developed in the present.

There are several competing aims within heritage and broader cultural policy:

  • the glorification of the past, of its beauty and its achievements
  • the production and consumption of heritage goods – the participation of citizens in the creation and recreation of heritage and their enjoyment of artistic and literary creations or natural landscapes
  • a citizenship function – helps citizens feel part of their community and its history, and hence builds a sense of a common future
  • an education function – integrated in education curricula, not only in courses on the arts but also in citizenship education, history, geography, natural sciences or biology, and can have an important function today in lifelong learning programmes
  • the utilitarian turn – heritage is valorised as a factor of job creation and economic growth, with a growing emphasis on the economic impact of heritage activities and sites that can boost the local economy of a place through related hospitality as well as cultural services
  • linked to urban development and the growth of cities – heritage activities contribute to a vibrant city that is attractive to both residents and visitors

Cities and their heritage

An urbanising world poses challenges and opportunities to cultural heritage, endangering both tangible and intangible heritage:

  • works of art or historical buildings bulldozed to make space for new real housing or office projects
  • everyday rituals that rural people may abandon when moving to urban areas
  • traditions, clothing, dialects lost to adopt uniformed and standardised codes of dress or ways of speaking

Reinventing heritage in the city (or inventing a city heritage) can represent a development factor as well as an important way to build a new sense of community. Heritage can be a factor of economic growth. It can attract tourists and make a city a desirable place to live, because of the services and attractions it offers. But the challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas that open up for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage in urban centres are numerous.

Urbanisation and globalisation:

  • globalisation “refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness” and includes four socio-spatial dimensions:
    • the stretching of social, political, and economic activities across borders
    • the intensification of interconnectedness and of patterns of transnational interaction and flows (of capital, goods, services, people, media images, ideas, or pollution)
    • the speeding up of global interactions and processes
    • the intertwining of the local and global in ways that local events may affect distant lands

Over the last 50 years cities have become privileged loci of economic activity and political power, and also of cultural policy and governance – they offer the necessary socio-spatial dimension that economic and cultural globalisation requires, bringing together people, products, services, expertise, consumption, information and communication into an intense and dense network.

Cities epitomise the double potential of globalisation:

  • homogenisation – through the diffusion and prevalence of ‘Western’ lifestyles and a global culture of consumerism
  • diversity – eg exacerbating identity-related conflicts or local grievances, or through the opening up of new opportunities for cultural expression

Cities allow for manifestations of glocal-hybrid forms, styles, and patterns, bringing together local and global elements and processes.

The combined effects of globalisation and urbanisation also favour the emergence of a new type of ‘city nationalism’: city-imagined communities of people who feel they form a cultural and political community, who feel that they belong together.

Contemporary globalisation is a process of combined and uneven development:

  • draws together people, goods, and capital almost cancelling distance of time and space while ignoring existing disparities and inequalities
  • creates greater disparities and inequalities in resources, income, health, and cultural power than those that it initially brought together

Metropolitan areas are the privilege ‘theatres’ where globalisation plays out. Particularly in the cultural field, the size of cities and their being ‘nodal points’ where people, capital, and goods cross make them the new protagonists of the cultural scene, propelling them as protagonists into the governance of cultural issues, including of cultural heritage.

Cities and heritage: how different cities speak of their heritage

Some cities identify the source of their heritage in the past:

  • Rome, Shanghai, Athens – trace their heritage in ancient civilizations and empires, claiming it as a local heritage, albeit universally recognised
  • Vienna, Paris, London, Budapest, Istanbul – trace their heritage in their more recent past as capitals of empire; rich in imperial architecture, palaces and museums, urban planning with impressive boulevards, bridges or sewage systems
  • Marseilles, Barcelona – ports which trace their heritage in their economic function of the past, imprinted in their urban planning and characterising the cities to this day

Other cities reinvent their heritage by reference to their present and future:

  • western global cities like Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto define themselves through cultural diversity, celebrating it as an important part of their heritage
  • Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf, Hong Kong and Singapore are creating a new type of global city nationalism, forming their heritage with reference to their geographical morphology (often peninsulas) and their role as global financial and cultural centres
  • mega-cities of the global south, former colonies such as Delhi, Mumbai, Cape Town or Johannesburg, trace their heritage with reference to their colonial past, as well as to their sense of national independence and acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity

What counts most in defining the heritage of a city is the emergence of a self-consciousness of the city as a heritage community, and the claim to govern itself with a large degree of independence from the nation.

Week 2: the governance of heritage

Heritage governance is about relationships and interactions among different types of actors, seen as a better fit to contemporary societies than government and the state. It enables actors, such as companies or civil society, who are more quick to act and have more timely information, to make up for the lacunae of state action. The term governance designates interaction and networking between public and private actors in horizontal, non-hierarchical ways.

Heritage governance was traditionally linked to the nation-state and was centralised, a task entrusted to culture ministries and their experts. It was also mainly funded by the state; there was little activity in terms of public-private partnerships as heritage was conceived as ‘national property’.

During the past 15 years heritage governance has undergone a process of transformation leading to a number of changes:

  • multi-level: both horizontal and vertical cooperation; vertical between international, national, regional, and even local authorities and actors, and horizontal between actors from different sectors
  • inter-related with other policies such as education and tourism, but also with business innovation and SMEs
  • decentralised rather than top-down and expert-dominated

Decentralisation processes:

  • outsourcing – many functions of heritage preservation, such as cataloguing and restoration, are outsourced to private (profit/not) actors, offering flexibility and efficiency
  •  devolution – regional and local actors are given power and responsibility in managing their heritage, privileging a stronger sense of ownership, cutting red tape and allowing heritage to become a lever of cultural and economic development
  • managerialisation – the role of managers (of museums, libraries, cultural foundations, associations) has become increasingly important; each cultural institution shows a high degree of autonomy as well as self-sustainability; also with much more community participation
  • privatisation – beyond outsourcing or managerialisation to the outright concession of cultural heritage places or items entirely to private operators

Heritage in urban strategies

What does a local perspective bring to the understanding of the dynamics of heritage governance? Numerous reports argue that successful heritage policies generate positive impacts for cities, by:

  • creating jobs directly at sites or museums
  • attracting tourists, thus generating indirect revenues
  • educating the urban population on their past, passing on knowledge to future generations
  • creating intercultural dialogue
  • regenerating urban areas and improving the well-being of their inhabitants

As a part of an urban strategy cultural heritage is not an end in itself but an instrument for pursuing different goals. Each city and each urban heritage policy prioritises these goals differently. For example, urban strategies prioritising cultural tourism may disregard, or even be to the detriment to, the accessibility of heritage to the urban population. Focusing on urban regeneration may lead to a concentration of cultural attractions and activities in just a few areas of the city.

Who is involved and has a say in the elaboration of a heritage policy will determine the objectives that are prioritised and, eventually, its beneficiaries.

Three conceptual frameworks showing the power dynamics of urban cultural heritage strategies:

  • levels of governance: constraint or resource? cities have various degrees of autonomy, which may affect the financial and human resources at their disposal and their capacity to regulate
  • policy sectors: who gets involved? education? transportation? tourism?
  • modes of regulation:
    • public actors set the rules and enforce them, and may also directly invest in preserving heritage or operate heritage institutions
    • private actors are market-driven and profit-oriented, and may act as key stakeholders and take part in their implementation as part of public-private partnerships
    • civil society often plays a central role in the mobilisation for the preservation of heritage and its promotion

Heritage and urban development

Economists argue that cultural heritage should not be viewed as a cost, but rather as an investment that can yield short-term and long-term economic impacts:

  • short-term: direct effects (eg employment and income generated), induced effects (eg visitor consumption, benefit to local businesses, jobs…) and indirect effects (multiplier effects)
  • long-term (more difficult to calculate):
    • increased attractiveness of a city – recognitions, such as UNESCO World Heritage list or landmark cultural projects, can raise cultural tourism, which generates higher spending and can contribute to encouraging residents and businesses to settle in the city by raising the quality of life
    • fuels urban creativity, providing knowledge and ideas, which can be reinterpreted and generate spillovers in the local economy
    • a key component in urban regeneration – in numerous former industrial neighbourhoods in crisis or central areas in decay the focus on cultural heritage has accelerated the revival of urban life

This suggests a mechanic process, whereas local development relies on how cultural heritage relates to the local social and economic system. For example heritage trails appear to be a low-scale initiative which can generate several benefits, such as attracting more visitors for longer stays and diverting flows from congested areas, but more important is the collaboration that such projects can trigger, between heritage sites and service providers, between different local governments or among nonprofit organisations, all gathered around a common objective and a common cultural identity.

Giving new life to industrial heritage

By the 1980s the use of industrial heritage as tool of urban development had spread rapidly, resulting from the context of the industrial crisis as well as from the will to promote a more inclusive approach to heritage.

Many cities like Liverpool, Marseille, Genoa and Bilbao experienced difficult times. [CPH never mentioned in this connection; too small, or because it has the benefit of being a capital?] Beyond an economic crisis these cities underwent . Derelict factories and former industrial neighbourhoods in decay appeared as deep scars in the landscape, leading to an identity crisis as well as an economic crisis.

The use of industrial heritage as a resource has been a key strategy in creating a new urban narrative, defining new functions for empty warehouses and closed factories and creating new jobs in both the tourism sector and the ‘new economy’, including knowledge-based sectors such as IT, design, or the arts.

The recognition and promotion of industrial heritage was part of a general movement towards a wider and more inclusive recognition approach, which affected vernacular and rural heritage as well as alternative cultural productions such as graffiti.

The historical and aesthetic values of industrial heritage became recognised as a testimony of the industrial revolutions which transformed the world from the 19th century, of successive technical achievements and of the memory of the working class. Projects aimed at telling a new story in order to overcome their identity crisis, and at developing new economic sectors such as entertainment and tourism

Week 3: heritage and urban change

Urban transformations: the city as an ever-evolving cultural heritage

As a city evolves some of its infrastructures and buildings lose their initial functions, are conserved and become part of its cultural heritage. In the second half of the 20th century numerous train stations became obsolete; some were heritagised (the social construction of heritage, the process that leads people to consider something as heritage).

Brian Hoyle has identified six stages in the relationship between cities and ports:

  • in ancient and medieval ports port and city are closely associated, from both a spatial and functional point of view
  • between the 19th century and early 20th century the growth in industry and trade pushes ports outside the city’s confines
  • in the mid-20th century, with the rise of industrial activities like oil refining and the introduction of containers, the port starts being separated from the city
  • 1960s t0 1980s: new maritime technology causes the establishment of separate port industrial development areas; the retreat from the waterfront
  • 1970s to the 1990s: redevelopment of the waterfront, with a process of urban renewal beginning within the original port areas
  • 1980s onwards: a new stage of reconnection between the port and the city, with redevelopment projects enhancing the importance of port and city integration

This transformation in the organic relationship between the port and the city has affected urban neighbourhoods where the workers employed in port activities once lived. Hafen City in Hamburg “aims to recover the port warehouses, restore the historic district and reinforce Hamburg’s identity as a maritime city”. But having former ports and industrial areas recognised as places of heritage value has been a tortuous process; such areas are seen as problematic because of poverty, abandonment, crime and poor services. Their inclusion in heritage programmes is still a contested issue in many cities.

Cultural heritage vs urban development

Does urban development appear as an asset or as a threat to the preservation of heritage?

Three key tensions:

  • archaeology vs urban development: research in the urban environment can take place under the pressures of urban developers unwilling to avoid delays in their projects
  • preserving the historical landscape vs adjusting to urban change
  • authenticity vs instrumentalisation of heritage: tourism-oriented urban regeneration strategies can be to the detriment of the preservation of local intangible heritage and vernacular social practices; the existence of measures to safeguard built heritage does not necessarily guarantee the preservation of the city’s social character; who is heritage for?

The consequences of heritagisation for local populations:

  • lower class populations living in the historic centre of Naples have been viewed by the urban elites as an obstacle to promoting the area as cultural heritage, as they were associated with a bad reputation, namely crime and poverty; this led the administration to redefine the right behaviour in the city and make reproaches to local inhabitants for their “lack of heritage consciousness”

The issue of gentrification:

  • the term gentrification has been used to describe the settlement of upper and middle class households in working class neighbourhoods, often associated with the transition in housing tenure from renting to ownership
  • the rehabilitation of cities’ built heritage is often accused of contributing to the process of gentrification
  • the intangible heritage that lies in the customs, habits, and everyday life of these neighbourhoods’ inhabitants may be at risk while built heritage is conserved
  • evolution of the definition of gentrification:
    • 1980s: mostly related to a process of rehabilitation of 18th and 19th century inner neighbourhoods as well as the conversion of former factories and warehouses into lofts and apartments
    • 21st century: expanded to include redevelopment projects in central areas and extended to the analysis of the changes in modes of consumption in inner neighbourhoods
  • a distinction is generally made between two types of dynamics:
    • top-down logics of redevelopment of central areas that lead to (and sometimes aim at) the eviction of local populations
    • an organic process involving local communities and businesses that enables conservation of the character of the area
  • not necessarily a planned process, but this does not mean that policies cannot play an indirect role; the construction of a new train station or a new cultural centre, the improvement of urban services, the creation of touristic trails, can all contribute to gentrification
  • Kate Shaw: “preservation of heritage can be used as a deliberate gentrification strategy, with the ‘cultural sensibilities’ of the middle class pointedly distinguishing between past and future users”

Gentrification represents a key tension in heritage policy. Different visions of what heritage should be for compete:

  • some argue that heritage should be preserved to accelerate urban regeneration and attract tourists
  • others defend the position that cultural heritage should mostly carry social and educational objectives
  • also a subject of tension between the advocates of the rehabilitation of built heritage and those also devoted to safeguarding intangible heritage

Some policies have been trying to challenge this issue:

  • the establishment of social housing within gentrifying neighbourhood, either in new or rehabilitated buildings
  • the regulation of rents in order to prevent lower income households from being evicted because of the rise of real estate values

Events and city identity

Different kinds of events have been integrated into the strategies of cities to promote heritage.

Mega-events: national pride or city branding?

  • the football world cup, the Olympic Games and world expositions are highly mediatised and reach a global audience; they have become major tools for cities to display their singularity and to compete on the global stage
  • emerged in the 19th century, in the context of the industrial revolution. and are associated with the rise of modernity
    • the first world exposition was the Great Exhibition of London in 1851
    • the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896
  • aim at celebrating universal values such as excellence, respect, and friendship (Olympic)s or progress and innovation (expositions)
  • the nations that organise them wish to demonstrate their economic and political power:
    • materialised through innovative buildings, which remain important monuments (the Eiffel Tower)
    • to display imperialism (the 1931 colonial exhibition in Paris left a contested heritage – its main building was turned into the National Museum of the History of Immigration in 2012)
  • until the second half of the 20th century the city is rather a showcase of modernity than an actor in mega-events strategies
  • later on cities started to compete to organise such events in order to increase their attractiveness:
    • their first motivation is economic impacts – mega-events are argued to yield high returns on investments by attracting tourists and enhancing cities’ images
    • their second motivation is to accelerate urban transformations – the year of a mega-event often constitutes the deadline for a number of major redevelopment projects, new infrastructure, new cultural and sport facilities
  • the use of mega-events as an instrument of national pride has not disappeared; emerging countries combine urban branding and nation branding aimed at asserting the rising soft power of these nations, as in China’s stadium by Herzog and De Meuron for the 2008 Olympics; Gulf countries also offer a good example, with the World Exposition in 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 Football World Cup in Doha

Festivals as instruments to enhance local heritage:

  • mega-events have a global scale but are highly standardised, while smaller scale events such as festivals, carnivals, or biennials can be more rooted in the city’s identity
  • cities use festivals to create a lively and attractive urban environment, but also view them as a way to differentiate and promote a specific identity, often carrying old traditions that made them famous worldwide
  • festivals can be a great asset to the city, especially if they are not imported for commercial or for self-realisation reasons but are rooted in the community, with the concept connected to the city and the citizens themselves involved

European Capital of Culture

  • evolved from a traditional arts festival to a complex programme tied to economic and social objectives
  • during the first years the event took place in the recognised European cultural centres such as Athens, Florence, or Paris, lasting only a few months and involving mainly the cultural sector to achieve mostly cultural goals
  • in 1990 Glasgow played a pioneering role in using the event as a tool to transform the city’s image by extending it to a year long programme and taking it as an opportunity to regenerate a city tarnished by the industrial crisis
  • Lille came up with a number of innovations that expanded the scope and objectives of the initiative, involving 193 towns in the area, emphasising the social impact, establishing cultural sectors and events in peripheral neighbourhoods to reach out to diverse populations and boosting citizens’ participation through a volunteering programme involving almost 18,000 citizens
  • a narrow focus on urban growth that may not benefit the whole city’s population is now avoided, with the scope and objectives expanded to include, for example, inter-city cooperation as well as social impacts
  • ECC projects are often criticised for being too elitist and not rooted enough in their city; Marseille’s cultural scene rose up to the reduction of culture to an urban marketing tool and created a parallel event to the European Capital of Culture, named, the “Off”; three artists aimed “to put the Marseillais artist at the heart of the European Capital of Culture, by organising off the wall and impertinent shows, based on paradoxes of the city”; see also OFF-Biennale Budapest
  • smaller cities often take a more innovative approach and are able to capture more significant benefits

Aarhus 2017: the ECC Olympics? Of rather more interest would be Milton Keynes 2023:

The city is culture…Rather than looking at the culture that takes place in the city…the real task is to understand the city itself as culture. Milton Keynes was meant to be different: it is, as the Capital of Culture bid proposes, “different by design”.