Invisibility in language: Critical theories and critical studies on language

On 11 February 2023, the Itatsu Lab will be organising a symposium titled “Invisibility in language: Critical theories and critical studies on language“.

Time: 11 February 2023 (Sat.) 14:00~17:00 JST
Venue: Komaba International Building for Education and Research (KIBER) Room 314, Komaba Campus, The University of Tokyo (map below)
Format: Hybrid (Face-to-face and live via zoom); registration required (links below)
Language: English only 

A recent critical trend in applied linguistics has shed light on invisibility in linguistic research. While critical research that follows Marxist tradition highlights the oppression of individuals from the perspective of political economies, a decolonial trend questions the ongoing dominant understanding of language, which originates from former colonial powers. In addition, a post-humanist trend also questions the human-centered prescription of language and emphasizes an object-oriented perception of the meaning-making process. Against this background, this symposium aims at prospering talks on various directions in doing critical studies in applied linguistics. With a focus on alienation, minoritized language, and fluid language, this symposium also aims to unveil the invisibility in language studies and language education for emancipating language and those who are subjected to it.

Opening Remarks (14:00~14:05):
Dr. Yuko Itatsu (The University of Tokyo, Professor)

Part One: Invited speakers (14:05~16:05)

Dr. Robert J. Lowe
Ochanomizu University, Associate Professor
Alienation, critical research, and English language teaching
‘Alienation’ is a term closely associated with Frankfurt School critical theory. In the work of Marx and the early Frankfurt School, alienation refers to the separation people experience from their human nature due to their participation in the production process of capitalism. However, in recent years this has been reformulated by the critical theorist Rahel Jaeggi as a sensation experienced when one is denied the authorship of one’s life. This presentation will suggest that given the centrality of language and communication to human life, alienation is a key concept for understanding issues related to language and identity, as well as the intrusions of economic, political, and social forces in the lives of language teachers and learners. Following this, it will be argued that one focus of ‘critical’ ELT research should be to aid language learners and teachers to live unalienated lives.

Dr. Madoka Hammine
Meio University, Associate Professor
Peripheral Multilingualism and (De)coloniality in English Language Education in Japan
Scholars have long been critical about how Japan has often been perceived as monolingual, monocultural or monoethnic despite its multilingual, multicultural, and multiethnic reality. This talk draws on “peripheral multilingualism” in Indigenous and minoritized language communities (Pietikäinen & Kelly-Holmes. 2013), focusing on Japan. Using an insider’s reflective autoethnographic analysis as a learner of an minoritized language, meeramuni (a variety of Yaeyaman, one of the Ryukyuan languages recognized by UNESCO), I discuss how linguistic hierarchy and inequality in the “periphery” of Japan continues to be reproduced through recent changes in language education policy. I explore ways to transcend current views on multilingualism through a decolonial lens to language education research.

Dr. Xinqi He
J.F. Oberlin University, Lecturer
Understanding translanguaging through Giorgio Agamben
Translanguaging has been a concept with increasing popularity in the field of sociolinguistics. Although translingual work targets named languages and argue for a boundaryless understanding of the concept of language, most of the translingual research still regards language as originating from and heading to named languages. Applying Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s theory on law, this presentation proposes to understand the fluid language as the original form of language, which both named language and language-related institutions paradoxically relies on. This presentation also argues that the fluid language and named language are not mutually excluded but exist with an ongoing opposite tension where the fluid language is constantly being captured back to while fleeing away from the named language, the degree of which varies in different contexts. As such, this presentation calls for a new direction in sociolinguistics to reflect on language-related institutions and to understand language as language without names – a quasi-fixed transient community where the linguistic norms are decoupled with violence and where all linguistic forms are free.

Break time: 16:05~16:15

Part Two: Panel discussion (16:15~17:00)

Dr. Kyoko Motobayashi
Ochanomizu University, Associate Professor
Kyoko Motobayashi is Associate Professor of Japanese Applied Linguistics at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University. Her main research areas are sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and language policy studies, focusing on bilingualism, language teaching and learning, and identity issues.

Shoko Moriya
The University of Tokyo
, Ph.D student
Shoko Moriya has been interested in studies on how English and its varieties are perceived by learners of English in Japan. She is now particularly interested in topics related to language ideology and critical sociolinguistics. She is currently working on her dissertation, whose topic is ideologies of English and other languages in a part-time night high school in Japan.

Registration links
Attend in-person:
Attend online:


Contact us: asukaando1991[at] (Please change [at] to @)

Organized by: Itatsu Lab, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo 

Co-organized by: ITASIA Program, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

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