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Popular film and English as a second language : toward a critical feminist pedagogy of identity and desire Mackie, Ardiss Emilie

Abstract

My identity as a white woman ESL teacher has been structured partly through movies I saw in my youth. More recently in the late 1990s, a film with ESL, The King and I (1956), was on Japanese television two years in a row while I was teaching there. I found that very interesting and began asking questions regarding the influences that popular film may have on real ESL teachers and students. The study questions how films contribute to ESL in terms of teacher and student identities and desires. To explore this question, I collected three forms of data: 24 films with ESL; post-secondary ESL teacher and student responses to watching two films with ESL; and memories of films from my youth. A framework of critical and feminist pedagogy, including work in identity and ESL, and postcolonial, cultural, and feminist studies informed the analysis. I analyzed the data in relation to discourses of desire and the body as a socially constructed site of racial and gender identification. From the film data, I made the case that particular tropes, initiations, and signs construct reel ESL, such as white female teachers as upholders of particular colonial identities. From the teacher and student data, I found that readers engage with cinematic meanings in a space of liminality, that is, not quite in the movie but not quite in themselves. Readers by-pass their race, gender, age, and occupation to access the cinematic body as politically engaged and disrupting the status quo. From the memory data, I argued that through the seemingly innocent practice of watching movies, a world of racialized and gendered desire was settling in and making itself comfortable. The study is positioned in a critical feminist pedagogy of multiliteracies. Here, diverse sites of meaning-making strengthen and disrupt the desires and identities of ESL.

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