Contesting Regimes of Variation
Critical Groundwork for Pedagogies of Mobile Experience and Restorative Justice
This paper examines from a critical transdisciplinary perspective the concept of variation and its fraught binary association with standard language as part of the conceptual toolbox and vocabulary for language educators and researchers. “Variation” is shown to be imbricated a historically-contingent metadiscursive regime in language study as scientific description and education supporting problematic speaker identities (e.g., “non/native”, “heritage”, “foreign”) around an ideology of reduction through which complex sociolinguistic and sociocultural spaces of diversity and variability have been reduced to the “problem” of governing people and spaces legitimated and embodied in idealized teachers and learners of languages invented as the “zero degree of observation” (Castro-Gómez 2005; Mignolo 2011) in ongoing contexts of Western modernity and coloniality. This paper explores how regimes of variation have been constructed in a “sociolinguistics of distribution” (Blommaert 2010) constituted around the delimitation of borders—linguistic, temporal, social and territorial—rather than a “sociolinguistics of mobility” focused on interrogating and problematizing the validity and relevance of those borders in a world characterized by diverse transcultural and translingual experiences of human flow and migration. This paper reframes “variation” as mobile modes-of-experiencing-the-world in order to expand the critical, historical, and ethical vocabularies and knowledge base of language educators and lay the groundwork for pedagogies of experience that impact human lives in the service of restorative social justice.
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