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Book reviews / System 28 (2000) 323336

would have to consider in some depth learning theory, and in particular language learning and acquisition, as well as the potential and limitations of information technology and humanmachine interaction. The concept of autonomy would need to be examined and analysed in depth. They would then have to show how practice derives from theory, how the basis for decisions on the issues treated in Part 2 of the work, ``practical perspectives'', is laid by the theoretical principles hammered out in Part 1. The use there of the term ``theoretical perspectives'' is perhaps an indication that the authors have no such intent. The discussion of autonomy, for instance, occupies less than two pages and is largely concerned with the diversity of denitions oered by dierent writers. The book contains no signicant contributions to the development of theory as such. A better sub-title would have been `principles and practice'. The book is a practical manual for trainees and practitioners and as such can be thoroughly recommended. References
Oskaarsson, M., 1980. Approaches to Self-assessment in Foreign Language Learning. Pergamon, Oxford. van Essen, A.J., 1997. Language imperialism. In: Hickey, R., Puppel, S. (Eds.), Language History and Linguistic Modelling: a Festschrift for Jacek Fisiak on his 60th birthday. Mouton and de Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 20492073.

J.L.M. Trim 53 Barrow Road Cambridge CB2 2AR, UK

0346-251X/00/$ - see front matter # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S0346-251X(00)00004-X

Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching A. Suresh Canagarajah; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, 224 pp., 18.10 pb, ISBN 0-19-442154-6 Following in the postmodernist footsteps of Alastair Pennycook and more distantly inspired by the neo-marxist critique of Robert Phillipson, Suresh Canagarajah sets out to explore the ``ideological and discursive conicts experienced by learners of English in post-colonial communities'' (p. 3). He also wishes to determine whether English is a valuable resource for Third World countries or just another tool of those who wish to perpetuate their subjugation. He concludes that what is needed is ``a `third way' that avoids the traditional extremes of rejecting English outright for its linguistic imperialism or accepting it wholesale for its benets'' (p. 174), and that ``The question confrontingF F Fstudents is not whether English should be learned but how'' (p. 175). He further opines that

Book reviews / System 28 (2000) 323336


``F F Flearners must be encouraged to become reexive about themselves i.e. how their values, community membership, historical background, and subject-positions motivate them to negotiate language and knowledge in particular ways. (p. 186)'' So, while the title of this book might lead the reader to expect a full-scale assault on English teaching, a conclusion is eventually reached from which even the most antediluvian British Council apparatchik could scarcely seek to demur. What path leads from such challenging questions to such apparently innocuous answers? The book starts by setting up an opposition between mainstream and critical pedagogy with the former representing the forces of darkness and the latter, the forces of light. This is not a particularly credible view. Does one really have to be an adherent of critical pedagogy, as is suggested here, to believe that there are cultural aspects to learning? And is it only critical pedagogues who believe that not all knowledge is value free? This is not the only occasion on which Canagarajah has resort to an unconvincingly bipolar view of things. One of the recurring motifs throughout this book is the distinction between the centre, equivalent to Kachru's (1986) inner circle nations, and the periphery, equivalent to Kachru's outer and expanding circles. Canagarajah characterises relations between the two in the following terms: ```Centre' refers to the technologically advanced communities of the West which, at least in part, sustain their material dominance by keeping less developed communities in periphery status. (p. 4)'' There is much that could be said about this. It is very doubtful if either the centre or periphery nations are suciently homogeneous to be grouped into two such distinct sets. What does Indonesia a shambling, Javanese-led, multiracial, mainly Islamic, empire really have in common with the Republic of Korea ethnically homogeneous, an economic force in its region second only to Japan, and a nation which only really fears one imperialism, that of the Japanese? And on the side of the centre, why must New Zealand stand in the dock while Ireland and South Africa, with English-speaking populations of comparable size, are absolved? Canagarajah acknowledges in passing (p. 7) that his model may be a little nave but that does not stop him relying on it throughout. Having established that mainstream pedagogy is labouring under the totalitarian inuence of the Enlightenment, Canagarajah goes on to lead his readers through a rehearsal of the usual contradictory postmodernist platitudes. We are told that ``Although Enlightenment thinking placed the human subject as transcendental and autonomousF F Fwith an inner core of consciousness that provided each with unique identity, this was too idealistic. (p. 31)'' Not too idealistic for the author, however, as earlier in the same paragraph he states that ``The heterogeneous and conictual nature of discourses provides the possibility that one may enjoy a range of subject positions according to the dierent discourses availableF F F (pp. 30f.)''


Book reviews / System 28 (2000) 323336

Who is the `one', gambolling playfully through the meadows of discourse, in this quote, if not the unitary, self-identical Enlightenment subject? Canagarajah goes on to buy into the notion that there are two kinds of knowledge: axiomatically evil Lyotardian grand theories and plucky little local knowledges, with the former ever bent on the destruction of the latter. On the shaky assumption that this is indeed the case (Is anyone sure that they know what `local knowledge' actually means?), can we really be certain that it is always such a bad thing? To take one doubtless unfair example, it seems unlikely that even as determined a postmodernist as Canagarajah would decline to take advantage of the fruits of the grand theory of western medicine and submit himself instead to the tender mercies of traditional healers, should he be so unfortunate as to nd himself seriously ill. It would not be too dicult to think of many other areas in which humanity has beneted from the vanquishing of `local knowledge'. When it comes to the matter of power the author avers that ``F F Fit is not something solely exercised by the state or by `politicians', as had traditionally been understood. (p. 33)'' One does not need to have swallowed Foucault whole to nd this a tolerably convincing proposition. All of us possess some kinds of power in some social situations. The question for a writer with radical, emancipatory intentions such as Canagarajah, however, must be whether the micro-politics of the classroom, to take the most relevant example, has the potential to make a substantial impact on the forces that hold people down. It is a question that has to be squarely addressed and not nessed away, as it is here. Enough. Canagarajah is not alone in taking pains to condemn the heritage of the Enlightenment, even as his very own words serve as a monument to its enduring power and inuence. Nor, for that matter, is he the only one to deride absolute concepts of knowledge while taking it as a given that domination and resistance are ubiquitous in social life. And, to be fair, he does state that ``For periphery subjects who experience multiple forms of oppression and very pressing needs of food, clothing, and shelter, a diet of linguistic guerrilla warfare, textual resistance, and micro-politics will not suce. (p. 34)'' However, this amounts to no more than an aside. There is no sign in these pages that he has taken the force of his own admonition to heart. Things start to get more interesting when the author nally hauls himself out of the postmodern midden and describes his observations in the de facto Tamil state that then existed in northern Sri Lanka. He begins with an interesting description of how the exigencies of war combined with the policies of the regime to reduce, but by no means to eliminate, the inuence of English. Indeed, he concludes that Tamil has become so Englishised that speakers have to make an eort to speak it in an unmixed form. My only doubts here concern what may have been left out. The

Book reviews / System 28 (2000) 323336


Tamil Tigers' language policies as they are described seem to be the acme of reasonableness, but one has to fear that punishments for using English must have sometimes been a lot more severe than the occasional verbal rebuke from a petty ocial. Canagarajah also examined the doodles, grati and general marginalia written by his students in their textbooks, and from them he posits the notion of a ``F F Fvibrant underlife in the classroom, where students collaborate in providing social, emotional, and psychological sustenance and solidarity against the perceived lifelessnessF F Fof the course (p. 92)'' which he believes to be of ``immense signicance in understanding student opposition'' (p. 93). He is careful not to romanticise this opposition, however, and after contrasting it with evidence of the students' continued high levels of enthusiasm for learning English, he concludes that ``Teachers have a responsibility to unravel the conicting strands of student behaviour in order that more productive insights and strategies can be tapped for a critical pedagogy. (p. 98)'' Well, yes, but a lot depends on what `productive' means. As the author's own evidence indicates, most students are perfectly well able to manipulate their course to suit their own requirements, and it is not at all clear that the teacher is likely to know what these requirements are better than they do themselves. And in any case, does experience not teach us that, in many situations, attempts by a teacher to appropriate the oppositional behaviour of students will only lead to its displacement elsewhere? Turning to the oppositional strategies of teachers, Canagarajah starts by taking a rather unnecessary swipe at task-based teaching methods and implying a degree of gullibility on the part of some of his colleagues, who he claims were impressed by ``proclamations'' (p. 111) of their superiority. I would not wish to go in to bat for task-based methods, but there does appear to be some empirical evidence to support their ecacy, and most experienced teachers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are quite capable of taking overblown claims to have discovered the philosopher's stone of second language acquisition with a grain of salt. Indeed, the evidence oered by Canagarajah himself tends to support this view. He starts by describing the eorts of an eager young teacher to teach a task-based lesson. As she proceeds with more enthusiasm than forethought we are not surprised when she comes unstuck. Her older, wilier colleague, by contrast, has obviously planned her lesson a good deal more carefully, and she makes considerable eorts to ``sell'' the new method to her students and to recognise ``some of the local norms of interpersonal interaction'' (p. 119). Not surprisingly, her lesson is a great success. Canagarajah implies that there are important lessons to be learned from these examples about developing a critical and appropriate pedagogy. Perhaps, but it could equally well be argued that what they demonstrate is a more universal dierence between a good language lesson and a bad one.


Book reviews / System 28 (2000) 323336

A few further points need to be made. On code-switching in the classroom, Canagarajah concludes with the remark that it ``helps students subtly opposeF F Fdomination'' (p. 144). Maybe it does, but the kind of uncritical endorsement it receives here creates the danger of confusing lack of progress in the target language with strategies of opposition. On the question of academic writing he believes that ``being native to a marginalized discourseF F Fcan be a resource for critical expression'' (p. 169). Indeed, and this is equally true for many native speakers when they enter the academy. On the question of standard English he sensibly endorses the idea of dierent standards for dierent purposes and communities. He underestimates, however, learners' thirst for what they believe to be the `real thing', and the extent to which they are likely to feel short-changed if they feel they are being denied access to it. So what after the parade of the usual postmodernist suspects, the vignettes of life in Sri Lanka, and the excursions on academic writing and code-switching, etc. are we left with? A writer who believes that students and teachers should take nothing on trust but examine everything critically. A writer who believes that students should be taught to value the good in their own culture as well as in other peoples'. A writer who plainly believes genuections in the direction of Foucault, Pennycook and others notwithstanding that fact can be separated from fancy. A writer who, to the extent that he wants his own people to be treated with the full respect due to them, believes in universal norms of justice. And nally, perhaps in spite of himself, a writer who, more often than not, endorses classical, liberal educational values. It is plain that the subversive power of the Enlightenment is not yet exhausted. References
Kachru, B.B., 1986. The Alchemy of English: The Spread, Functions and Models of Non-Native Englishes. Pergamon, Oxford.

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