‘Don’t you know how to speak English properly?’: language and writing in the production of a doctoral dissertation

Katrina Jaworski


In recent times, some research which includes student perspectives has been undertaken on understanding the relationship between language and writing. This paper aims to render more visible the perspective of a recent doctoral student on what still appears to be taken for granted in producing doctoral dissertations. Drawing selectively drawing on the work of Edward Said and Judith Butler, it is argued that the use of language and writing in relation to the production of doctoral dissertations is not neutral but, rather, is contoured performatively by different cultural norms and practices. In particular, language and writing are embodied discursive practices, shaped by the past and re-articulated in the present through which the present speaks back to the past. The paper begins with an anecdotal reflection on one memory of an experience that took place during the early years of my formal education prior to coming to Australia. The paper then reflects on and analyses three memories that capture some of my experiences with the English language and writing across the Australian education settings.

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