Digital Literacies

  • Tony Capstick


In this chapter, I aim to link the discussion about access to and the availability of literacy in Mirpur and Hillington to the way that the participants in this study accessed linguistic resources online. As discussed earlier, in the discourse of powerful Western governments, monolingualism is often taken to be the natural state of human life (Gal 2006: 15). This, as I have demonstrated, is the case with Urdu in Pakistan and English in the UK. Further to this, Gal argues, named languages are taken to be homogenous with, as well as markers of, the essential spirit of a particular group. In Pakistan Urdu has become the symbol for Pakistani nationhood and national identity as a Muslim (Rahman 2011; Rassool 2007). In the UK, monolingual integration policies simultaneously link proficiency in English with social cohesion and undervalue the importance of heterogeneous minority languages in forging cohesion (Blackledge 2005). Rather than endorse this opposition between monolingualism and multilingualism I will employ the term linguistic repertoire as it is not limited to the competence of multilinguals or distinct ‘languages’ but rather relates to the repertoires of styles, dialects and registers of users (Kachru 1982). Here, I explore this relationship between language, power and identity in more detail. I begin with the notion that the identities available to individuals at a given moment in history are subject to change, like the ideologies that legitimise and value particular identities more than others (Blackledge and Pavlenko 2001; Pavlenko and Blackledge 2004). I discuss how language users look for new social and linguistic resources which allow them to resist identities while also assigning new meanings to the links between linguistic varieties and identities (Norton 2006). I draw from concepts set out by Heller (2007) in her critical analysis of languages in society as she suggests moving away from seeing ‘language’, ‘community’ and ‘identity’ as natural phenomena and towards an understanding of them as socially constructed. This would mean that these categories could not be attached to individuals or groups based on, for example, their ‘ethnicity’ or ‘language’. This reconceptualisation is helpful in understanding the multilingual literacy practices of Mirpuri migrants, as they speak and write using many language varieties and their ethnicities are not rooted in one single place or associated with one specific language. Moreover, Heller draws on Giddens (1984) in considering language as a set of resources that are unevenly socially distributed. This concept is employed in the analysis here to explore the specific linguistic resources that participants draw on from moment to moment in their literacy practices.


Embed Clause Literacy Practice Language Variety Digital Literacy Linguistic Resource 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Capstick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK

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