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The (New) Literacy Studies: The evolving concept of literacy as social practice and its relevance for work with deaf students

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>8/06/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Cultura & Psyche
Number of pages18
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date8/06/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Developed in the 1980s by social anthropologists, education researchers and psychologists, the field of research known as (New) Literacy Studies (NLS) has put forward a sociocultural understanding of literacy as practice. While the NLS’core assumption about literacy – that it is more than a set of cognitive abilities – is still as valid nowadays as it was then, new theoretical ideas have been added to their canon. These include multiliteracies, multimodality, real literacies, materiality and affect. With these notions, literacy researchers continue to challenge conventional discourses about literacy and their disregard for the range of literacy practices people engage in. In this paper, I introduce some of these new theoretical developments. I then discuss their conceptual relevance in the context of two action research projects with deaf children and youth in India, Uganda and Ghana. In these projects, my colleagues and I tried an approach to teaching English to deaf children and young adults that was specifically inspired by ideas from real literacies and multiliteracies. Our approach was shaped by the NLS’ commitment to social justice and its belief in literacy teaching having to build on students’ existing literacy practices. In the paper, I discuss some of the challenges we experienced when putting these ideas into practice and look at how the students engaged with them in light of their expectations and desires for learning.