Communication and the Performance of Identity

Bee Bond and Peter Matthews from the University of Leeds are going to reflect their pre-sessional programme: Language through Communication and Society and its impact on the student agency and identity.

Summer 2016 saw the first iteration of the presessional programme ‘Language through Communication and Society’. The Language Centre works in collaboration with subject academics through foundational content of our students’ chosen Masters programme. The final unit of study centres on the theme of Communication and the Performance of Identity. Students are asked to critically engage with core subject texts (Hall, 1996; Goffman, 1992 [1959]; Thumin, 2012) and demonstrate their understandings through a final transitional task. This task requires students to consider their own current sense of identity and if/ how it is likely to change over the course of their Masters degree. They are then asked to ‘perform’ this through a media of their choice at an end of programme event. In our talk we examine enactments of this final task, taking into account conflicts, negotiations, and the extent to which students feel able to employ agency within a group task. The ways in which students have engaged with the subject literature on identity will be considered, asking whether students either become more socialized into their discipline or demonstrate a sense of agency and criticality towards the literature. We will thus consider whether the overall impact of this content-based task leads to greater student agency and criticality or socialization and transition (or indeed something entirely different). Finally, the perceptions of both students and subject academics as to which, if any, of these possible outcomes are desirable will be considered.

Indicative references

Duff, P.A. (2010) Language Socialization into Academic Discourse Communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30, pp.169-192.

Hall, S. (1996) The question of cultural identity. In S Hall, D Held, D Hubert, and K Thompson (Eds) Modernity: An introduction to modern societies. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 596-631.

Goffman, E. (1992 [1959]) Performances. In The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin, pp. 28-82.

Miller, E.R. (2015) The ideology of learner agency and the neoliberal self. International Journal of Applied Linguistics.

Thumin, N. (2012) Histories of self-representation. In Self-representation and digital culture. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 19-48.


bee-bondBee Bond has taught on and developed EAP programmes for over 15 years. She is a TEAP Senior Fellow and is currently on secondment as a Fellow of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, carrying out a project to look at the impact of a content-based presessional across the University.

Peter Matthews has worked for the University of Leeds Language Centre since 2008. He is Programme Leader for Level 4 of the Academic English for Post-graduate Studies programme (AEPS), he is also Co-Strand Leader for the Communication and Society Pre-sessional programme.


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