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  • 2023AlbalawiPhD

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    Embargo ends: 7/01/29

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Narratives of Female Saudi Adolescents: Intersectionality and English Language Learning

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Maram Albalawi
Publication date2029
Number of pages231
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The current climate of change in Saudi Arabia has called into question the favoured position English has long held as a second language for Saudis. For today’s Saudi youth, this issue is highly pertinent as there are questions about how they navigate these changes and the role English might play in their lives and imagined futures. This thesis focuses on female adolescents, who will be particularly affected by recent reforms aimed at enhancing the role of women in the Saudi economy. Drawing on Norton’s (2013) concept of identity and employing the lens of intersectionality, this thesis explores the identities eight female adolescents constructed through narratives. Focusing on the socioeconomic dimensions of identity construction, it offers insights into the intersections between language, gender and other intra-categorical differences associated with socioeconomic status that may impact identities and access to education.
The participants were studying at two schools (public and private) in a socially and economically diverse regional city of Saudi Arabia and were selected based on demographic information derived from a questionnaire. Data were collected through interviews, classroom observations and learners’ journals. Multi-level positioning analysis (Bamberg, 2010) and intersectional analysis (McCall, 2005) revealed a matrix of socially complex realities in the female adolescents' learning experiences.
The analyses showed how small stories served as a performative resource whereby the narrators navigated their sense of self, presenting distance and resistance, exercising agency and recreating realities. Family provided a context in which power relationships shaped and reshaped their identities and English, as symbolic capital, was part of defining these relationships and determining the adolescents' societal status. The intersectional analysis revealed multiple identity dimensions intersecting with the main narrator identity of “being an English learner”, which enhanced the adolescents’ privileged position or contributed to their marginalised position, thus helping or hindering their learning experience.