Social Justice in Education Initiative: Let’s dream of an approach to social justice that enables students and teachers to bring their multiple selves to learning

with Evangelina Holvino and James Cumming of Chaos Management, LTD

Expanding Conversations about Social Justice in Education: Exploring Possibilities and Tensions
2nd Forum of the Social Justice in Education Initiative
University of Massachusetts Amherst
April 20, 2012

Our poster presents a summary of our thinking applying the concept of simultaneity to help students and teachers bring their multiple selves to enhance the learning task. Holvino’s theory of simultaneity (2010) views identities as multiple, interacting and continuously shaped by the simultaneous organizational and societal processes of race, gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity and nation, among other social differences.

Having multiple selves means learning how to accept the resulting ambiguities and contradictions in learning together. It means that interactions are frequently marked by something we call “problematic moments.” These are rich sites for understanding how people are impeded or enabled to enact simultaneity. They are also moments when an intervention has the most potential for engaging justly with differences, changing the conversation and its outcomes. We will explore how to enhance such outcomes.

CIBER Business Language Conference

CIBER Business Language Conference: Building Bridges from Business Languages to Business Communities

UNC Center for International Business Education & Research and UNC-Chapel Hill
March 21-23, 2012

“ESL and Innovation” (Business Language Research and Teaching 2011 Award Presentation)

Feedback from the conference evaluations:

Dear Ms. Kent,

As you may know, the post-conference evaluation survey for the Business Language Conference includes a section where we ask people to tell us if there were any specific sessions they particularly liked. I hope you’ll be pleased to know that your presentation was one of the most often mentioned.

(via email, April 2, 2012)

Description: Executives and employees negotiate misunderstandings arising from thinking in different languages as well as having different levels of English fluency. Moments of repair and explanation after so-called ‘communication breakdowns’ or ‘odd’ or ‘funny-sounding’ instances of English usage can serve many functional uses within workgroups, providing the basis for valuing intercultural differences as an intra-organizational social norm and cultivating innovative thinking.

Dialogue in DUO: Future Change Through Language and Interaction

Dialogue Under Occupation VI
Beirut, Lebanon
May 2012

Blogentries (Dynamic Diagnosis):

  1. stumbling into spirit
  2. Presupposing Salmon: Ready DUO Players?
  3. Fantasia
  4. A Temporal Turn?

Proposal (Prelude):

Dialogue at the Dialogue Under Occupation conferences is contested territory. Participants in this workshop will analyze the language use and social interaction among a roundtable of participants from a previous DUO conference discussing the academic boycott of Israeli universities. Specifically, two “problematic moments” will be presented for collective analysis. Dr James Cumming theorizes, “Problematic moments are unlike other moments because they mark a brief point in time when the conditions of possibility for the group to have new, more productive and deeper conversations can be realized.”

For the purposes of this workshop, to dialogue is theorized as collectively changing the meanings of the past in order to collaboratively invoke new meanings for the future. The goal of re-visiting problematic moments is to proactively engage the question of re-calibration in the Bakhtinian sense of orienting to a chronotope. Can we learn how to generate alternative timespaces with revised identifications and altered relationships? Workshop participants will explore and evaluate the language use and interaction among roundtable participants from DUO IV, with an eye upon ourselves as human subjects contributing to the persistence or alteration of existing social realities.

Mini-Bakhtinian conference in education

Promises and Challenges of Dialogic Pedagogy

with James Cumming of Chaos Management LTD

School of Education, University of Delaware
March 26-April 2, 2011

Blog entries about the experience and our learnings:

  1. Is Dialogue Possible? posted 2 April 02012


We dream of a dialogic pedagogy practice that helps learners access and apply the total fabric of their multiple selves to the current situation and context when appropriate. In order to study how to do this, we would like to try actually doing dialogic pedagogy during the conference. Our focus is on learning about the impact of identity in heteroglossic interactions. Our project has three components:

1. Collecting and providing data on notable incidents of language use meaningful to our study by taking on the role of action researchers during the conference. The observations and data collection will focus on identifying challenging moments where identities surface as relevant in particular interactions.

2. Conducting a workshop (preferably in the middle of the conference) where the data we have gathered is analyzed by us and other conference participants in order to explore the transactional processes by which the social is collectively generated. Our workshop will be a setting for discovery and diagnosis of a potential shared chronotope of the conference membership. We will share two frameworks – Holvino’s simultaneity theory (2010) and Cumming & Holvino’s problematic moment approach (2003). We will take the lead in our role as action researchers and workshop attendees are invited to collaborate with us in a “fishbowl” type setting.

3. Contribute to a twitter stream (hashtag #bakhtin) and write a few blogposts in order to create a strand of meta-commentary about what conference participants are learning from and with each other while we are in the process of experiencing the conference together.

By bringing a backchannel into active use we immediately display the fact of heteroglossia and we can explore together, dialogically, what meanings, learnings and promises may be in the data. We will use Freire’s notion of dialogic pedagogy which involves developing the skills of recognizing and working with language as both a symbol of and a container for social realities (1970). In order to access the communicative resources embedded in their/our multiple social identities, learners need to:

  • Understand the impulse and resist the pressure to conform to one-dimensionality in our own and towards others’ identities. Amartya Sen calls this process “miniaturization” (2006). It refers to the ways in which we make our own and others’ complex and multiple identities singular and one-dimensional.
  • Become skillful at acknowledging and communicating our own matrix of identities as well as exploring and accepting others’ complex social identities.

Informed consent for participating in human subjects research will be provided to all conference participants.

The European Public Sphere: From critical thinking to responsible action

The European Public Sphere: From critical thinking to responsible action

Committee of the Regions
Brussels. February 2012.

Beyond Homolingualism: A Participatory Model of Simultaneous Interpretation.

The strategy to communicate Europe is guided by an emphasis on information and technology that neglects social interaction. Discourse among the EU institutions in official documents about Plan-D, the White Paper, and multilingualism perpetuate an interaction taboo in which “the tricky question” of an exclusionary language policy is avoided, minimized, or preemptively defended. This is particularly evident in regard to simultaneous interpretation. In the European Parliament, the regime of “controlled multilingualism” has resulted in a communication system that is perceived as most successful when it provides Members with an illusion of communicating in the same language. As in the policy discourse, the measures of evaluation are based in a separation of meaning (in language) from use (by people). The desire to control meaning plays out in contested relationships as Members manipulate the human bias for homolingualism as a tool for individual voice, dis-preferring the cooperative mediation of power implied by participating in simultaneous interpretation. An alternative construction of simultaneous interpretation in community interpreting for the Deaf illustrates another regime in which generating equal voice is the task of the interpreter and language difference (heteroglossia) is preserved and embraced as the goal of the social interaction. Ritualizing community-based simultaneous interpretation as an intracultural social activity is proposed as a means to communicate a new European imagined community.

Quality Interpreting in a Push-Button World

Quality Interpreting in a Push-Button World

2nd North American Summit on Interpreting
Washington DC June 17-18, 2011

I will be presenting a poster, Interpreters and the Mechanical Reproduction of Inequality, summarizing some key findings from my Fulbright-sponsored dissertation research about the system of simultaneous interpretation at the European Parliament.

2nd Annual Science of Team Science Conference

Clinical and Translational Sciences Unit, Northwestern University
Chicago, April 4-11, 2011

Resilience, Innovation, and Sustainability: Navigating the Complexities of Global Change

Arizona State University
Tempe AZ,
March 11-16, 2011

Slideshows and other materials from the conference are available here.

2011 Summer Workshop on Integrated Weather Studies

2011 Summer Workshop on Integrated Weather Studies

Societal Impacts Program, National Center on Atmospheric Research
Boulder CO, August 4-12, 2011

The Societal Impacts Program (SIP) of the National Center for Atmospheric Research hosts this professional practice workshop on “changing from what WAS to what IS the future of integrated weather studies.”

WAS*IS aims to better integrate weather and social science to empower practitioners, researchers, and stakeholders, in all sectors of the weather enterprise, to forge new relationships and to use new tools for more effective socio-economic applications and evaluations of weather products.

I am looking forward to joining the group of 250+ participants chosen to contribute to this growing movement!

Checkpoint: Turning Discourse to Dialogue

Kent, Stephanie Jo., Sibii, Razvan, and Napoleone, Anna Rita. (2011).  “Checkpoint: Turning Discourse to Dialogue.” In Examining Education, Media, and Dialogue under Occupation: The Case of Palestine and Israel. I. Nasser, L. N. Berlin, & S. Wong (Eds). Critical Language and Literacy Studies Series. Multilingual Matters: UK.

from the publisher’s last round of feedback:

Excellent last chapter: a brilliant deconstruction of the power relations assumptions inherent to the practice of dialogue groups, masterfully combined with a testimony on an actual experience of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.”


June 9 – 13, 2010

2010 Summer Doctoral Seminar at Wayne State University


Disaster is non-discriminatory; it does not care whether the people affected speak the same language or not. Recruiting and retaining qualified language interpreters and learning to utilize rudimentary machine translation are first steps in a comprehensive systemic solution, involving training of all members of rescue and support teams, their supervisors, funders, policy-makers, the media and the public to understand how to cooperate in highly-charged intercultural communication requiring simultaneous interpretation.

The desire for instantaneous and unproblematic use of language is culturally conditioned. Most people’s experience of social interaction occurs in a language that is mutually understood. The desire for fast and fluid communication in a shared language is a common human experience. In the rapid flow of responding to an emergency, who will pause to focus on the skills of patience and attention needed to navigate non-shared meaning structures? Not knowing another’s language stymies the onward rush of establishing security and problematizes efficiency, upending reasonable assumptions of easy understandings.

A certain level of skill and commitment is required to investigate the orientations of culture and language-based meaning systems in order to gauge whether words and concepts describe the same referent or different realities. For instance the work of the United Nations Security Needs Assessment Protocol (SNAP) demonstrated conclusively that what the UN means by “security” and what villagers in affected areas in different countries mean by “security” are entirely different. The practice of ethnographers and interpreters tests and validates the limits of theory. This seminar will allow me to explore the relevance of interpreting theory to practices of thinking clearly in dangerous situations.

Rapid response is a necessary characteristic of dealing with emergency situations. Well-trained teams can both integrate interpreted interaction seamlessly into their operations and participate in generating a new kind of cultural bond. Interpreters are certified, as it were, not only to transmit information, but also to build relationships. The intercultural experience of being in each other’s presence without knowing what is going on is a natural setting for the facilitation of the exact skills of tolerating difference that are required in situations of crisis.

My dissertation research, which was funded by a Fulbright Grant in 2008-2009, explored the bases of shared identity among Members of the European Parliament, who routinely use interpreters among 23 different languages. That “total institution” (in the sociological sense) is contrasted with my professional experience as an American Sign Language interpreter for the Deaf community in the US. What is common to each setting is the need to learn how to orient differently to time in order to co-create an effective process of intercultural communication. The necessary adaptation suggests that learning how to use an interpreter well is a single skill with profound implications for conflict resolution, disaster management, peacekeeping, and any other situation in which safety is under threat.