Imagined Communities, Identity, and English Language Learning

  • Aneta Pavlenko
  • Bonny Norton
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE, volume 15)


This chapter introduces the notion of imagined communities as a way to better understand the relationship between second language learning and identity. It is argued that language learners’ actual and desired memberships in imagined communities affect their learning trajectories, influencing their agency, motivation, investment, and resistance in the learning of English. These influences are exemplified with regard to five identity clusters: postcolonial, global, ethnic, multilingual, and gendered identities. During the course of this discussion, we consider the relevance of imagined communities for classroom practice in English education.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Achebe, C. (1965). English and the African writer. Transition: A Journal of the Arts, Culture, and Society, 4, 18.Google Scholar
  2. Achebe, C. (1988). Hopes and impediments: Selected essays 1965–1987. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  3. Almon, C. (2001). Identity stories in an ESL classroom. Unpublished manuscript, Temple University.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism (Rev. ed.). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, B. (2000). Language and negotiation of ethnic/racial identity among Dominican Americans. Language in Society, 29(4), 555–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baley, R., & Gorlach, M. (Eds.). (1982). English as a world language. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  7. Biava, T. (2001, February). Creating a post-Communist identity in English, “a small lane between optimism and pessimism.” Paper presented at the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference, St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Braine, G. (Ed.). (1999). Non-native educators in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Cook, V. (1992). Evidence for multicompetence. Language Learning, 42, 557–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook, V. (1999). Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 185–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cook, V. (Ed.). (2002). Portraits of the L2 users. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  13. Goldstein, T. (1997). Two languages at work: Bilingual life on the production floor. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  14. Grosjean, F. (1998). Studying bilinguals: Methodological and conceptual issues. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hakuta, K. (1986). Mirror of language: The debate on bilingualism. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  16. Hall, S. (1992a). Race, culture, and communications: Looking backward and forward at cultural studies. Rethinking Marxism, 5(1), 10–18.Google Scholar
  17. Hall, S. (1992b). The question of cultural identity. In S. Hall, D. Held, & T. McGrew (Eds.), Modernity and its futures (pp. 273–325). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hoffman, E. (1989). Lost in translation. A life in a new language. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  19. Ibrahim, A. (1999). Becoming Black: Rap and Hip-Hop, race, gender, identity, and the politics of ESL learning. TESOL Quarterly, 33(3), 349–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kachru, B. (1982). The other tongue: English across cultures. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kachru, Y. (1994). Monolingual bias in SLA research. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 795–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kanno, Y. (2003). Imagined communities, school visions, and the education of bilingual students in Japan. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2, 241–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kanno, Y., & Applebaum, S. (1995). ESL students speak up: Their stories of how we are doing. TESL Canada Journal, 12(2), 32–49.Google Scholar
  24. Kheimetz, N., & Epstein, A. (2001). English as a central component of success in the professional and social integration of scientists from the former Soviet Union in Israel. Language in Society, 30, 187–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kinginger, C. (2004). Alice doesn’t live here anymore: Foreign language learning and identity reconstruction. In A. Pavlenko & A. Blackledge (Eds.), Negotiation of identities in multilingual settings (pp. 219–242). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  26. Kobayashi, Y. (2002). The role of gender in foreign language learning attitudes: Japanese female students’ attitudes toward English learning. Gender and Education, 14(2), 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kouritzin, S. (2000). Immigrant mothers redefine access to ESL classes: Contradiction and ambivalence. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 21(1), 14–32.Google Scholar
  28. Kramsch, C. (2000). Social discursive constructions of self in L2 learning. In J. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 133–153). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kramsch, C., & von Hoene, L. (2001). Cross-cultural excursions: Foreign language study and feminist discourses of travel. In A. Pavlenko, A. Blackledge, I. Piller, & M. Teutsch-Dwyer (Eds.), Multilingualism, second language learning, and gender (pp. 283–306). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  30. Lippi-Green, R. (1997). English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McMahill, C. (1997). Communities of resistance: A case study of two feminist English classes in Japan. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 612–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McMahill, C. (2001). Self-expression, gender, and community: A Japanese feminist English class. In A. Pavlenko, A. Blackledge, I. Piller, & M. Teutsch-Dwyer (Eds.), Multilingualism, second language learning, and gender (pp. 307–344). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  34. Medgyes, P., & Miklosy, K. (2000). The language situation in Hungary. Current Issues in Language Planning, 1(2), 148–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller, J. (1996). A tongue, for sighing. In J. Maybin & N Mercer (Eds.), Using English: From conversation to canon (pp. 275–298). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, J. (2000). Language use, identity, and social interaction: Migrant students in Australia. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 33(1), 69–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mura, D. (1991). Turning Japanese. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  38. Ndebele, N. (1995). Maintaining domination through language. Academic Development, 1, 1–5.Google Scholar
  39. Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 409–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change. London: Longman/Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  41. Norton, B. (2001). Non-participation, imagined communities and the language classroom. In M. Breen (Ed.), Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research (pp. 159–171). London: Longman/Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  42. Norton Peirce, B. (1989). Toward a pedagogy of possibility in the teaching of English internationally: People’s English in South Africa. TESOL Quarterly, 23(3), 401–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Novakovich, J., & Shapard, R. (Eds.). (2000). Stories in the stepmother tongue. Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press.Google Scholar
  44. Orellana, M. (1994). Appropriating the voice of the superheroes: Three preschoolers’ bilingual language uses in play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 9, 171–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pavlenko, A. (1998). Second language learning by adults: Testimonies of bilingual writers. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 9(1), 3–19.Google Scholar
  46. Pavlenko, A. (2001). “In the world of the tradition I was unimagined”: Negotiation of identities in cross-cultural autobiographies. The International Journal of Bilingualism, 5(3), 317–344.Google Scholar
  47. Pavlenko, A. (2003). “I never knew I was bilingual”: Reimagining identities in TESOL classes. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2, 251–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pavlenko, A., Blackledge, A., Piller, I., & Teutsch-Dwyer, M. (Eds.). (2001). Multilingualism, second language learning, and gender. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  49. Sridhar, S. (1994). A reality check for SLA theories. TESOL Quarterly, 28(4), 800–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thesen, L. (1997). Voices, discourse, and transition: In search of new categories in EAP. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 487–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aneta Pavlenko
    • 1
  • Bonny Norton
    • 2
  1. 1.Temple UniversityUSA
  2. 2.The University of British ColumbiaCanada

Personalised recommendations