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Towards epistemic justice: Language, identity, and relations of knowing in postcolonial schools

This project is concerned with the role of language in epistemic justice, defined as an ethical project of reversing epistemic exclusions, mitigating epistemic harm, and seeking parity of epistemic authority for historically marginalized speakers and knowers. It suggests that postcolonial contexts such as South Africa, in which multilingualism is seen as the norm rather than an anomaly, can point the way to constructing more egalitarian and ethical conditions for learning.
This research lies at the intersection of critical socio- and applied linguistics, education, and sociology. It investigates the ways in which Grade 4-6 students in two peri-urban Cape-Town primary schools use their multilingual resources to negotiate social and academic identities. It analyses how hierarchies of value including language, ‘race’, ethnicity, and nationality are reworked as new forms of postcolonial conviviality emerged. It explores, simultaneously, how learners use multilingualism as an epistemic resource, enhancing access to knowledge for others, thus demonstrating a decolonial ethics of knowing.
The project overall aims to illuminate the potential of more heteroglossic and less stratified sites to enrich the sociological imagination and to offer insights about possibilities for change. It points to invisibilized processes of cultural and educational production which could lay the basis for creating new conditions of epistemic justice and a decolonial ethics of care.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].