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A study of cultural content in the British ELT GLobal Coursebook : a cultural studies approach

By John Gray


This thesis investigates cultural content in a sample of British ELT global\ud coursebooks published over the past three decades from a cultural studies perspective.\ud Using a constructionist epistemology, the study aims to identify the nature of cultural\ud content, to account for the form it takes and to examine what a group of Barcelonabased\ud teachers think about such content and the role of culture in ELT. The research\ud design is based on a modified version of the `circuit of culture' proposed by Du Gay,\ud Hall et al. (1997) for the investigation of the construction of meanings associated with\ud cultural artefacts.\ud A descriptive framework, combining elements of content analysis and social semiotics,\ud is applied to four best-selling coursebooks. Their `representational repertoires' are\ud shown to be typified by a pervasive `native speakerism', and the deployment of\ud discourses of feminism, multiculturalism, individualism and consumerism, alongside\ud the ongoing globalizing of content. This content is partly explained by referring to\ud publishers' guidelines and interviews with publishers, in which a discourse analysis\ud approach is used. However, it is only by turning to the literatures on visual\ud communication, consumerism and the concept of promotional culture that a fuller\ud explanation can be provided.\ud What emerges is a picture of a carefully constructed artefact, only some of whose\ud meanings resonate with those of the teachers. Interviews reveal that they construe\ud their practice in terms of teaching English as an international language for\ud predominantly lingua franca purposes. Broad approval for the representational\ud practices associated with gender and race does not extend to the pervasive `native\ud speakerism' or content which is seen as irrelevant to the context of instruction. The\ud thesis suggests that the form cultural content takes is best decided by locals for whom\ud English may have a range of meanings other than those determined for them by\ud British ELT publishers

Year: 2007
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