Shame in English language teaching: Desirable Pedagogical Possibilities for Kiribati in Neoliberal Times

Indika Liyanage, Suresh Canagarajah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Inadequate attention paid to understanding the complex relations between personal drives and situated social constraints means affect remains the least understood of language learning variables (Scovel, 2001). At a time when English is uncritically and universally treated as desirable, it is significant that its learning and use evokes shame in some communities. In this study, the authors analyze how Kiribati nationals and international development workers demonstrate conflicting orientations to shame relating to learning and using English. They consider whether shame of this nature might have positive value for learning, communication, and identity. Theorizing the productive significance of shame also helps deconstruct dominant notions of language competence, motivation, and pedagogical practice based on desire. The authors articulate policy and pedagogical options sensitive to local values and interests that might help resolve tensions in the perspectives of the powerful outsiders and dependent locals that lead to confusions in educational priorities and prove somewhat debilitating for local English language teaching (ELT) pedagogies. The authors conclude that ELT researchers and practitioners must proceed to distinguish different motivations for shame in English language learning contexts and identify the shame emerging from local community norms as deserving more recognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-455
Number of pages26
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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