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Real and Virtual Rubbish Keeping Things Tidy in Modern Languages Alison Phipps University of Glasgow.

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Presentation on theme: "Real and Virtual Rubbish Keeping Things Tidy in Modern Languages Alison Phipps University of Glasgow."— Presentation transcript:


2 Real and Virtual Rubbish Keeping Things Tidy in Modern Languages Alison Phipps University of Glasgow

3 Intercultural Communication Intercultural Communication and language learning, following the Common European Framework involves, amongst other things: –an openness towards, and interest in, new experiences, other persons, ideas, peoples, societies and cultures; –a willingness to relativise one’s own cultural viewpoint and cultural value-system; –a willingness and ability to distance oneself from conventional attitudes to cultural difference.

4 Languages and Sustainability Two Courses: Sustainability as explicit content: The Greening of Germany Sustainability as implicit content: Culture and English Language Teaching. Both courses involve teaching with rubbish, real and virtual.

5 The Greening of Germany Course Honours option 20 students Uses ethnographic methods & ‘reverse ethnography Works from anthropological literature, intercultural theory & German studies 20 week course – 2 hour sessions Student centred, problem based Involves performance & carnival aspects

6 Assessment Informal presentations Formative peer review of performance Critical assignment of 3,000 words using ethnographic case studies as strategic ethnography.

7 What is Rubbish? 1. a. Waste or refuse material, in early use esp. such as results from the decay or repair of buildings; debris, litter, refuse; rejected and useless matter of any kind. 2. fig. a. Worthless stuff; trash. Also, a worthless person. 1601 SHAKES. Jul. C. I. iii. 109 What trash is Rome? What Rubbish, and what Offall? (OED)

8 Anthropology & Environmentalism Culture has been viewed by anthropologists as the medium through which humans either adapt to or interact with the environment. A power relationship. Reflection on this relationship is therefore the study of human ecology - on the way organisms interact with their environments Environmentalism, as a cultural discourse, a discourse for cultural change, may also be examined as a source of behaviour - notably in Germany.

9 Rubbish in Germany Strict social and moral controls on the disposal of rubbish Long tradition of recycling Guener Punkt, Umweltfreundlich Widerverwerten, Wertshof, Wertstoff Legislation against packaging More direct relation to production Taxation reduces waste

10 German Rubbish in Scotland What happens when Germans visit Scotland? 1) Mummy, why do people here hang plastic bags in trees? 2) Es gibt kein ‘Litter’ 3) Culture shock, outrage, bewilderment 4) Social integration

11 Dirt is Matter out of Place Our definitions of rubbish are fundamental to our relationship with nature & the environment We build civilisation and society on our understanding of what is rubbish Mary Douglas defines dirt as ‘matter out of place’ This definition is socially & culturally constructed It is not unchangeable & relates to cultural values In intercultural situations, where different social orders meet, change is likely.

12 Moral Orders and Social Orders Mary Douglas argued in Purity and Danger that social organisation is protected by what people take to be right or wrong The moral order protects the social order The moral order is sanctioned through fears of dangers and threats. What will happen if….? Societies and groups tend not to be equally concerned about threats and are selective about their fears. This reflects their collective moral sensibilities

13 For example Groups and their attitudes to nature’s fragility –Egalitarians see nature as fragile –Entrepreneurs/hierarchists see nature as robust –Fatalists see nature as capricious Different forms of social organisation give rise to different

14 Some Conclusions about working with Rubbish Environmentalism is a cultural discourse It follows lines of communication It is ideological Our understanding of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is socially and culturally constructed in complex ways One person’s ‘Rubbish’ is another person’s ‘valuable material’ The shift from rubbish to valuable is based on ethical and social discourse

15 Explicit Environmentalism The focus is on the Greening of Germany Environmental and social dimensions of sustainability in Germany The discoveries are local as well as structural and cultural Students begin to asks questions which suggest a ontological or existential dimensions, not only epistemological.

16 Culture and ELT Course 40 senior honours students and Socrates partners Aim: Familiarise with ELT, issues and methodologies Focus on teaching language and culture Format: lectures & seminars, tasks 2 hours weekly Taught by English Language staff.

17 Rubbish and Right Places Culture is definitely ordinary Students choose and post topics themselves: –parking, pavements, walking, buses, jam, tea & coffee, rubbish, recycling, –war, religion, sexuality, politics, languages Moodle acts to generate and tidy up mess

18 Keeping things tidy Messy teaching, open ended Outcomes?! Talk about: –Religion –Politics –War Place of languages – as object, as medium, as mess

19 Implicit Sustainability How to teach ‘transformation’? How to facilitate ‘transformation’? –Savoir être –Assessment How to enable the valuing of ‘rubbish’ – when languages are seen as expendable.

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