Language classes as acts of citizenship

Macioti, Paola Gioia (2014). Language classes as acts of citizenship. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is about the possibility of political transformation from the margins through language and language classes in the context of citizenship management, migration controls and exclusionary language policies in the European Union.

To enquire into this argument, the thesis analyses the work of three different language classes projects in the UK, Germany and Spain, which, amongst other practices, teach the language to undocumented migrants and foster political mobilisation for their rights. By means of challenging exclusionary logics and dualisms, and pursuing a dialogic analysis of language and politics from the margins through understanding citizenship as enactment, this thesis reworks the relationship between language, agency, and political transformation in the context of restrictive use of language tests and classes, making it possible to understand the transformative capacity of the practice of language classes. This work argues that language functions as site in which citizenship as exclusionary can be reproduced (e.g. through language tests for accessing citizenship), but also as a site for dialogue, interaction and political organising for claiming one's rights, and for the transformation of citizenship as we know it. The possibility of engendering new political subjectivities and transformation from the margins through enhancing dialogue makes of any language class, official or not, a potential site of transformative citizenship.

The work of the projects analysed demonstrates how, through language and language classes, migrants who are excluded from citizenship and the realm of the political actually may engage in enacting, disrupting and transforming citizenship. Whilst it recognises the unpredictability of language and its possible oppressive effects, this thesis ultimately reads these language classes and some of their practices and actions as fragile but nevertheless transformative 'acts of citizenship' from the margins.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions