Identity re-negotiation, agency and linguistic competence in the experience of immigrants learning English as a second language and constructing social networks : case studies encountered in the Dublin City public libraries

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Farris, Barbara
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BA Anthropology
Dublin Business School
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This qualitative research is an anthropological investigation of the ways social and personal identity and agency are negotiated and reshaped by a lack of linguistic competence in relation to non-native English speakers living in Ireland. The ethnographic fieldwork is based on the participant observation carried out by the researcher during the working experience in the ILAC public library in Dublin city centre, in particular the interaction with the foreign users of the self-taught courses of English as a second language and of the conversation exchanges, where people of different nationalities gather in the evening to exchange ideas and linguistic knowledge. The research also includes six semi-structured interviews which were selected as exemplificative of different ways to deal with displacement and lack of linguistic competence in English. This thesis draws from four main theoretical frameworks: Bourdieu's theory of language as symbolic power, Goffman's concept of social interactions as performance, Turner's concept of liminality applied to the particular displaced condition of the non-native English speaking immigrants, and finally the sociolinguistic concept of the interaction of language and agency proposed by Duranti and the investigation on second language learning process by Pavlenko.