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Literacy studies as linguistic ethnography

Research output: Working paper

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Abstract

This paper makes the case for the continuing importance of literacy studies within linguistic ethnography, particularly given the nature of the kinds of societies in which we are working. It underlines the importance of continuing to develop concepts and approaches for analysis of the textually
mediated nature of the contemporary social world within the linguistic ethnographic enterprise.

I will address the textually mediated nature of our social worlds, and how interactions around texts instantiate and continue social relationships, processes and structures. The importance of textual mediation is highlighted by the increased significance of communication in digital environments and of
multimodal communication. This calls for an approach to linguistic ethnography which has the conceptual and methodological tools to address both the nature of the texts and the nature of these practices.
I will highlight the importance of having a robust theoretical and methodological apparatus to address questions around people’s interactions involving materialised language in various forms. This goes along with the importance in linguistic ethnography of robust theoretical and methodological
approaches to the analysis of spoken language drawing from interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis and the ethnography of communication; but as Lillis (2013) argues, focusing research on writing practices and written texts has the potential to challenge and develop ideas and methods which
have become established within sociolinguistics.
I will illustrate the argument in part with reference to a range of work situated both within linguistic ethnography and literacy studies, including my own recent research on paperwork in educational workplaces, to demonstrate how an orientation to analysis of practices around texts is centrally informing the understandings linguistic ethnography is developing.