Emancipation in the English Language Classroom: From What, Into What?

Conference: The Asian Conference on Language (ACL2022)
Title: Emancipation in the English Language Classroom: From What, Into What?
Stream: Language and Psychology
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Michael Burke, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan


Many foreign language educators view praxis as a central goal for language education (Crawford & Filback, 2022, xxi-xxvviii). Their notion of praxis is rooted in the theory of Paulo Friere (1970), sometimes incorporating post-colonial theory and intersectionality (Kwang-Johnson, 2022), often assuming that the function of the liberal order is oppression, “White supremacy is the unnamed political political system that has made the modern world what it is today” as Charles Mills (1997, 101) argued. The object of this praxis is emancipation, to liberate people from the kind of oppression described by Mills, above (Horkheimer, 2002, 188-243).

This presentation directs the spirit of critical theory inward, it entertains the possibility that implementing emancipation might lead to unforeseen consequences, which have the potential to impact negatively on the lives of students. As Foucault (1983, 231), once observed, "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do".

This presentation uses the example of Japanese students. In Japan, it is generally important to show one has persevered and suffered for the wider needs of the group (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999). If this is not well understood, educators might easily mislabel the above cultural pattern as weak obedience (Kitayama & Uchida, 2004) to oppression and try to emancipate them from their own culture as a consequence. For such students, emancipation could result in alienation, particularly after moving on from university.

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