Journal Article

Language Politics, Linguistic Capital and Bilingual Practitioners in Social Work

Gai Harrison

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 6, pages 1082-1100
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Language Politics, Linguistic Capital and Bilingual Practitioners in Social Work

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Social workers have explored the role of language in communication, identity formation, meaning making and representation. However, they have rarely examined the political ramifications of what language is in use when discussing these roles, or how language operates as a form of differentially valued cultural capital that is an influential determinant of life chances. This article draws on an exploratory study carried out with eighteen bilingual practitioners residing in Australia who reflect on how language politics infiltrates their personal and professional identities. Although many informants viewed bilinguality as an asset for practice, they were equally aware of the influential position of English in both local and global contexts, its powers of exclusion, and its role in shaping social work knowledge. The article concludes that greater recognition needs to be given to these ‘language politics’ in social work, especially in terms of recognizing how inequitable relations are maintained through the privileging of certain language practices and processes of linguistic othering.

Keywords: Language; politics; social work; Bilinguality

Journal Article.  7036 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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