Literacy studies

Authored by: Julia Gillen , Winnie Siu-yee Ho

The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138938168
eBook ISBN: 9781315675824
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter provides an introduction to literacy studies and its connections with linguistic ethnography. It gives a brief history of the development of a social practice approach to literacy, showing the importance of ethnographic studies within this history, and explains key terms such as ‘literacy event’ and ‘literacy practice’. It explores challenges common to literacy researchers and other linguistic ethnographers, for instance in conceptualising the relationship between local and broader contexts. It describes research methods commonly adopted in literacy studies and demonstrates their close connection to those of linguistic ethnography, highlighting, in particular, the influence of discourse analysis, the importance of reflexivity and the developing significance of digital technologies in literacy research. The chapter argues that given the central place of literacy in contemporary society, it would be hard to imagine a linguistic ethnography which was not at some point obliged to engage with literacy practices. Finally, it opens up potential new theoretical directions for the future development of both literacy studies and linguistic ethnography more generally, identifying the potential of post-humanist approaches which start from the premise of the entanglement of humans with the world around them and which do not limit agency to the human alone.

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