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Home Journal Index 2023-1

Race in the Field of SLA: Theories, Problems, and Implications

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Lauren Raubaugh
Manhattanville College, USA

Though the past couple of decades have seen increased scholarship in the sociolinguistic and sociocultural perspectives of second language acquisition (SLA), the topic of race in general is still commonly avoided in educational research. Reasons for this are often identified as related to the negative stigma attached to the word “race”, as it is inextricably tied to racism; the concept of race itself is also removed from the more salient, affective aspects of culture encompassed by the term ethnicity. Deciding how to approach race in research studies is also problematic – qualitative emic research is often considered less rigorous and generalizable, whereas an overly theoretical etic perspective fails to convey the complex social dynamics that race relations entail. Some scholars advocate for a complete abandonment of race as a category for fear of perpetuating divisive discourse. However, ignoring such a clear issue in the field of SLA could also be counter-productive to understanding the diverse body of students and teachers that comprise it. Individual, race-based perspectives can only be understood by documenting and disseminating the unique and diverse voices of learners and educators. This article reviews some relevant literature, which include qualitative studies as well as informal and often personal observations that recount the experiences of both English learners (ELs) and teachers. Practical takeaways for all educational settings, domestic and abroad, are contextualized within a theoretical framework of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS), and other relevant theory.

Race, sociolinguistics, sociocultural research, critical race theory, second language acquisition