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Wednesday 3 April

Gender and sexuality in ELT – inclusive education vs. queer pedagogy

with John Gray

After more than half a century of profound social change and legislative reform across much of the world, issues of gender and sexuality remain problematic in English language teaching and in education more generally. Despite limited progress in certain domains, English language teaching materials, English language tests and many teacher education courses continue to reproduce and reinforce heteronormativity – referred to by Deborah Cameron and Don Kulick (2003: 55) as ‘those structures, institutions, relations and actions that promote and produce heterosexuality as natural, self-evident, desirable, privileged, and necessary’. Such a situation denies recognition to those students who are gender and sexuality non-conforming, ignores those who are questioning their gender identity or their sexual orientation, and fails to educate all about the complexity of the world in which we live.

In this talk I explore some of the reasons behind this state of affairs and I look at ways in which it has been suggested this can be remedied. On the one hand, there is the case for inclusive education in which recognition is accorded to previously erased groups. Drawing on examples of how this has been done, I will suggest that there are pitfalls to such an approach being thoughtlessly applied - as the appearance of terms such as homonormativity, homocapitalism, homonationalism and pink-washing reveal. On the other hand, there is the more radical case for queer pedagogy, which I will argue is congruent with the principles of critical pedagogy and a view of education as 'the practice of freedom' (hooks, 1994). Paradoxically, this approach may be more appropriate for teachers working in those parts of the world where inclusivity is taboo.

Cameron, D. & D. Kulick (2005) Language and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. London: Routledge.

John Gray
John Gray is Reader in Languages in Education at UCL Institute of Education, University College London. His research interests are in the global spread of English and its promotion and marketization in late modernity, as well as issues of gender and sexuality in language teaching and beyond. He has published in Applied Linguistics, ELT Journal, Gender and Language, Language and Intercultural Communication, Language Teaching Research and the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. He is the author of The Construction of English: Culture, Consumerism and Promotion in the ELT Global Coursebook (2012) and the edited volume Critical Perspectives on Language Teaching Materials (2013), both published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is also co-author of Neoliberalism and Applied Linguistics (2012), published by Routledge and written with David Block and Marnie Holborow, and of Social Interaction and English Language Teacher Identity (2018), published by Edinburgh University Press and co-authored with Tom Morton.
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