“Here without English you are dead”: Language ideologies and the experiences of women refugees in an adult ESL program

Doris Stanley Warriner, University of Pennsylvania


In this dissertation study, I investigate macro-level ideologies about language and language learning in relation to the views and experiences of individual immigrants in order to understand the ways that those immigrants are positioned and position themselves within a specific educational and local context. My examination of micro-level processes such as interaction and storytelling illuminates the ways that both historical structures and individual subjectivities are mediated by local practices. I examine the situated construction of identity by examining the specific ways that the women in this study take up, resist, or transform societal level discourses about language, language learning, or the place of immigrants in U.S. society. Utilizing ethnographic methods such as document collection and analysis, participant observation, interviewing, transcribing, and the close analysis of language in use, I describe and analyze the ways that the women are positioned by macro-level discourses about language, language learning, and immigration; the ways that individual women refugees negotiate dominant discourses about the status and importance of English; and the ways that the women's choices with regard to language create particular positions (and thus identities) in relation to dominant-level discourses about language and immigration. I also illuminate the fact that ideologies about language, language learning, and immigration influence and are influenced by the complicated and contradictory nature of individual action and beliefs. In this way, this ethnographic study contributes to the linguistic anthropology of education, studies of immigration and refugee resettlement, and research on the relationship between language learning and identity negotiation/construction.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Womens studies|Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Warriner, Doris Stanley, "“Here without English you are dead”: Language ideologies and the experiences of women refugees in an adult ESL program" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087478.