From Upland to Lowland: Karen learners Positioning and Identity Construction Through Language Socialization in Thai Classroom Context

Authors: Nopthira Jawaut, Remart Dumlao (Muban Chombueng Rajabhat University, Thailand)
Speaker: Nopthira Jawaut
Topic: Language Socialization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Karen (or Kariang or Yang) are a group of heterogeneous ethnic groups that do not share common culture, language, religion, or material characteristics, and who live mostly in the hills bordering the eastern mountainous region (Fratticcioli, 2001; Harriden, 2002). Some of these groups have migrated to Thailand boarders. Given these huge numbers of migrant Karens, there is a paucity of research and understanding on how Karen learners from upland ethnic groups negotiate and construct their identities when they socialize with other lowland learners.

This paper explores how Karen learners negotiate and construct their identities through language socialization in Thai learning context . The study draws on insights from discourse theory and ecological constructionism, to understand the identity and negotiation process of Karen learners at different levels of identity construction. Multiple semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain deeper understandings of this phenomena between ethnicity and language socialization. The participants were three Karen learners who are studying in a Thai public university.

Findings suggest that Karen learners experience challenges in forming their identity and negotiating themselves in learning contexts. The factors influencing these perceptions seemed to emanate from the stakeholders and the international community which played significant roles in the context of learning. The findings also reflect that Karen learner identity formation and negotiation in language socialization constitutes a dynamic and complex process involving many factors and incidences, discussed in the present study. The analysis presented has implications for immigration, mobility, language, and cultural policy, as well as for future research.

Keywords: Karen, identity, positioning, negotiation