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French language textbooks as ideologically imbued cultural artefacts: Political economy, neoliberalism and (self) branding

Block, D; Gray, J; (2017) French language textbooks as ideologically imbued cultural artefacts: Political economy, neoliberalism and (self) branding. In: Coffey, S and Wingate, U, (eds.) New Directions for Research in Foreign Language Education. (pp. 115-131). Routledge: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

Traditionally, research and scholarship on foreign language teaching and learning (i.e. the teaching and learning of languages other than English around the world) has tended to be very much nation-state-based and the focus has tended to be on curricular issues, such as decisions about content (culture, lexis and grammar) and classroom practices, as well as cognitive-linguistic learning processes. Notably missing has been adequate attention to the economic, political, social, cultural and historical backdrop of FL classrooms. This kind of social sciences obliviousness has, to a great extent, kept FL studies outside of mainstream Applied Linguistics and separate from English language teaching and learning research. In the latter field, disciplinary crossings have been very much in evidence over the past several decades and they have enriched the field immensely. We believe that FL teaching and learning needs to move in the same direction and this chapter offers a modest attempt at doing just this. In this chapter, we focus on a key language curriculum issue, the textbooks used in classrooms, from a political economic perspective. In previous publications, we have taken a similar tack. Thus in Block (2010) and Gray (2010a, 2010b, 2012), there are critiques of how many of the activities in English language textbooks constitute celebrations of neoliberal ideology via their portrayals of empowered cosmopolitan elites as self-branded individuals who seem to spend most of their time traveling, using new technologies and consuming. Meanwhile, in a more recent publication (Gray and Block, 2014), we have shifted our focus somewhat, examining the representations of working class people in English textbooks published between 1970 and 2010. In this chapter, we return to the notion of self-branding, developing this construct in conjunction with recent work on how neoliberalism impacts on individual and collective subjectivities. Examining the carrier content of two recent editions of a French language textbook, Édito, Niveau B2 (Brillant, Bazou, Racine and Schenker 2010; Heu and Mabilet 2015), we highlight and analyse the ways in which activities in these books construct real and idealised/aspirational French-speaking identities which are aligned with the notion of the ‘neoliberal citizen’ (Brown 2005) and the practice of ‘self-branding’ (Peters 2008).

Type: Book chapter
Title: French language textbooks as ideologically imbued cultural artefacts: Political economy, neoliberalism and (self) branding
ISBN-13: 9781138673977
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.routledge.com/New-Directions-for-Resea...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: French language textbooks, political economy, self branding
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1541092
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