A (hospitable) call for epistemic justice and multilingual spaces of otherwise in Swedish Higher Education

Authors: Luke Holmes (Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden)
Speakers: Luke Holmes
Topic: Post-Structuralism and Language
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2022 General Session


This paper explores the struggles and successes of internationally oriented postgraduate students attempting to cross classroom thresholds and become accepted within a contemporary social sciences department in Swedish HE. Centred around Frank and his struggles to come into the classroom with his desire to collaborate, build solidarity and dialogue with his teachers and classmates, the study draws attention to the affective and epistemic challenges that one must face in order to create spaces of otherwise (Povinelli 2012). Such spaces are here seen through the post-structuralist notion of hospitality, as a question of who or what arrives at the borders (Derrida 1994, 1997, 2000, Levinas 1969, Vigoroux 2019), which creates space for thinking with and perceiving the alternative epistemologies and multilingual voices (not) present within internationalising Swedish Higher Education today. Operating within a linguistic ethnographic framework, classroom observations were carried out over one semester and were complemented by various narrative and ethnographic interviews with Frank and his classmates, in and around the classroom spaces. The interactional data involve instances of institutionally framed naming and welcoming rituals, while the interviews explore both the participants’ diverse trajectories, as well as their reflections on the affordances and challenges of the diverse classrooms with which they sought to engage. Fieldnotes, photos and transcribed audio recordings make up the data engaged with, across which certain core themes are identified. Frank and his classmates reveal the workings of reflexivity in (classroom) performance through acts of irony, disavowal and laughter. By these means, they call into question forms of classroom engagement that posit certain institutionally based roles for guesting and hosting. Explored through a certain multilingual and ‘southern’ lens (Stroud and Kerfoot 2013, Santos 2014), performative acts are seen that put other semiotic resources to use in order to call for the class group to collaboratively disrupt the institution’s ‘northern’ epistemologies and concomitant monolingual and monoglossic norms. In this way, this study introduces previously unconsidered ethical and multilingual potentialities into the debate surrounding the so-called internationalisation of (Swedish) Higher Education. The study contributes to a sense of how HE institutions might work to create spaces that one might regard as hospitably multilingual and open to the epistemologies and affective becoming of the Other.

Keywords: Hospitality, Spaces of Otherwise, Ethnography, Higher Education, Epistemology, Affect, Multilingualism, Reflexivity, Internationalisation