Towards a Critical EMI: New Transdisciplinary Approaches in Linguistics

Yuksel, Dogan; Hultgren, Anna Kristina; Wingrove, Peter; Zuaro, Beatrice and Nao, Marion (2023). Towards a Critical EMI: New Transdisciplinary Approaches in Linguistics. In: AAAL 2023 (American Association for Applied Linguistics), 18-21 Mar 2023, Portland, Oregon, USA.


Against a growing recognition that EMI is linked with power and dominance, calls have been made for a Critical EMI (Mirhosseini and De Costa forthcoming). However, less clarity exists around how such a Critical EMI might actually look, let alone be theorized, operationalized and enacted. In this presentation, we offer one example of what might be called a ‘Critical EMI’, by presenting emerging findings from our project, ELEMENTAL – English as the Language-of-Education Mechanisms in Europe: New Transdisciplinary Approaches in Linguistics. Framed within the ‘neoliberal turn’ of Applied Linguistics (Pennycook 2021), and theoretically and methodologically situated in the intersection of Political Science and Linguistics, ELEMENTAL borrows tools and concepts from Political Science to retheorize the rise of EMI in European higher education as linked to governance reforms that have sought to deregulate the market and grant higher education institutions greater autonomy. Whilst this so-called ‘steering at a distance’ mode of governance differs in form and extent across Europe, it typically relies on steering tools such as key performance indicators, competitive funding formula, institutional profiling, and other means of incentivizing higher education institutions to enhance their performance. Presenting evidence from European higher education, we argue that ‘steering at a distance’ may have played a role in paving the way for English as a Medium of Instruction or, at the very least, created a climate in which it can emerge and thrive. We conclude by considering the potential of transdisciplinarity as a way forward for a Critical EMI.

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