Global perspectives on classroom cultural mismatch and linguistic imperialism in higher education

Global perspectives on classroom cultural mismatch and linguistic imperialism in higher education
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Photo by Kamil Luczaj (1)Calvin-Odhiambo

Colby King, Kamil Luczaj, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow, Poland, and Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, USC Upstate

in 2022 month of January. hosted a panel discussion about our research and individual experiences, outlining what we know about how social class inequality and geography play into social mobility. We discussed how social class mobility intersects with race, language and dialect, geographic origin, and gender in career opportunities, particularly how these issues exacerbate class cultural disparity, creating difficult circumstances even for successful academics experiencing upward mobility.

Dr. Luczajus is a sociologist from Poland. He is interested in an international academic career and working class culture. His research examines the complex relationship between class position and the experience of migration. For example, he published a study on foreign-born scientists in Central Europe and a meta-analysis on foreign-born scientists on the “fringes”.

Originally from Kenya, Dr. Odhiambo’s experience as an international academic illustrates many of Dr. Luczaj’s research findings. Dr. King is not an international academic, but has experienced social class mobility throughout his academic career and has written about advocacy efforts for first-generation and working-class students, faculty, and higher education staff.

Based on numerous interviews with scientists working in Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US, Dr. Luczaj’s research reveals how securing an academic position in the US or UK is still a dream for many researchers and professors around the world. Some of them have a good economic motivation to migrate.

Although it may surprise some readers, working in a higher education faculty does not necessarily guarantee a middle-class job in European countries, Africa, or even the U.S. This is especially true for those who have not found full-time employment. time position and thus work in temporary or auxiliary positions. A survey of 3,000 adjuncts in the U.S. by the American Federation of Teachers found that nearly a third earn less than $25,000 annually, putting them below the poverty line for a family of four. Kamil Calvin colby flyer

Many academics in Europe also face financial problems. In post-Soviet countries (eg, Belarus, pre-war Ukraine), the official monthly academic salary was only a few hundred US dollars, which discourages academics from investing their time in research.

In Bulgaria, an EU member state since 2007, academics earned less than people working in the hospitality industry. Dr. Economic conditions are better in Luczaj’s native Poland, but academic salaries are still not on par with other industries that require similar education. There, it is not uncommon for academics to “moonlight” (hold more than one academic position), commute long distances, or even be unable to find a job and be pushed out of academia.

Similarly, Dr. Odhiambo noted that while Kenyan academics are treated with respect and reverence by others, the fact that they hold the highest degrees in 2022. A Kenyan college professor’s annual income is only about $23,400. All of this, of course, challenges the Western image of the affluent, middle-class academic.

Moving west can be a huge career advancement; if secured full-time, some international faculty can more than double their income. But such a move could impose a new burden. For example, because academic migrants often face cultural differences, language challenges, and other issues, they are sometimes stereotyped as less prominent in their new social circles than their education and academic standing suggests.

As Dr. King reflects in this piece and this essay, even without crossing national borders, academics who experience social mobility often experience hardship. International migration can link the cultural mismatches of social classes with other mismatches that often cause academic migrants to experience changes in their class position.

Their position in the social class is often perceived very differently by relatives, colleagues and neighbors. For example, as Dr. Odhiambo reflected, academic migrant families when they return home, especially their parents, tend to believe that international mobility is an indicator of great life and career success, even if they may be hampered by the discrepancies described above.

In addition, as noted by Dr. Luczaj, cultural power imbalances between centers and peripheries make people want to move more, even if such geographic mobility comes at a personal cost. For example, although English is supposed to be the lingua franca in the international academic community, one can also see “linguistic imperialism” here. Editors of ‘international’ journals based in the US or UK generally expect international academics to write their papers in impeccable English and draw on Anglo-American scholarship, all of which can deny them access to theories and concepts developed elsewhere. .

For international faculty, linguistic imperialism can also take the form of negative bias, especially for international faculty who speak English as a second language. Thus, accentualism becomes the new “ism” and the basis for the hierarchical arrangement of the faculty.

When international teachers return to their country of origin, the ability to speak English with an American or British accent actually becomes a form of embodied cultural capital that gives them high prestige in their country of origin (even if the perception of a foreign accent undermines their needs). standing with peers in a new country).

While this form of “linguistic imperialism” may sound good, it is at the root of a deeper problem. In countries like Kenya, which was part of the British Empire, being able to speak English with a British accent automatically confers high status in the eyes of colonists and natives alike. For the colonists, being able to speak English “without an accent” became an important qualification for employment. The fact that speaking English with an American or British accent is still considered a status symbol shows that linguistic imperialism is deeply rooted not only in the international faculty’s host country but also in their home country.

While migration to the West often ends well, adapting to a new environment is a tedious process of shedding an accent, building an implicit knowledge and reputation from scratch, which has little to do with direct upward mobility.

Meanwhile, academic employment is becoming increasingly difficult, increasingly dependent on part-time, non-permanent classroom work. Many academics, motivated in part by the insecurity of their early academic careers, make atypical career choices and migrate from the global center to the global peripheries of knowledge production in search of a stable life (e.g. from the US to Poland instead). on the contrary).

These strains are similar to the strains experienced by first-generation and working-class college students. As Dr. As King noted in this Daily Sociology blog article, college and classroom mobility comes with costs as well as opportunities. For those who experience class or geographic mobility, cultural capital becomes a particularly valuable commodity. Even for those who move into positions that offer higher status or financial stability, the changing class and geographic contexts make navigating the social world, both at work and at home, a fraught experience.

Of course, race, gender, and other identities also shape experiences of class and geographic mobility. Career paths where academics move ‘up’ the classroom and ‘out’ to a peripheral institution also illustrate how class mobility is multifaceted.

Are you doing academic work in a language other than your first language? Is studying or working in higher education an experience of social class mobility for you? In what ways does your social class experience in academia intersect with other social dimensions?

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1 Comment

  • It’s hard to come by well-informed people for this topic, however,
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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