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Translanguaging as a political act with Roma: carving a path between pluralism and collectivism for transformation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Heather Smith, Dr Lydia Wysocki



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Institute for Education Policy Studies, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Translanguaging claims to advance social justice as a transformative pedagogy. This paper analyses a tension which developed over the life span of a European research project which aimed to improve the educational experience for Eastern European Roma pupils through teachers’ employment of a translanguaging pedagogy. Roma are ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous, but as a minority group face continued racism, whilst Roma pupils face educational exclusion. The voices of Roma parents, pupils and activists and academics alerted us to potential threats in utilising translanguaging as a political act for transformation in education. They revealed a central tension between recognition of linguistic pluralism for emancipation at school level (with possibilities for policy level changes at local or national levels) and unifying endeavours for collective action towards equality and human rights at a (trans)national level. To understand this tension we examine ‘translanguaging’ in light of the postmodernist positioning and demonstrate the de-politicizing tendencies of postmodernism. In proposing a way forward for research and pedagogy, we carve a path between pluralism and collectivism by placing translanguaging pedagogy and associated research into Nancy Fraser’s integrative model of recognition and redistribution for transformation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith HJ, Robertson LH, Auger N, Wysocki L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Pages: 98-135

Online publication date: 01/04/2020

Acceptance date: 01/03/2020

Date deposited: 05/03/2020

ISSN (print): 2051-0969

ISSN (electronic): 1740-2743

Publisher: Institute for Education Policy Studies