Doing identity: Transcultural learning through children's and young adult literature
Susanne Reichl, Friday 12.00-12.30

This presentation will bring together, rather eclectically, theoretical components that lend themselves to a conception of transcultural learning approach in the English language classroom, and suggest principles and activities to put such an approach into practice.The theoretical component of my abstract title, "doing identity", has been coined in the context of transdifference studies, and fits in well with notions of culture in the classroom as advanced by Claire Kramsch, the phenomenon of transculturality as suggested by Wolfgang Welsch, and several brands of intercultural learning as developed by the Gießen-group or by Michael Byram). I will also bring principles of reading to the discussion, such as pattern recognition and the construction of meaning, in order to show how culture and identity can be constructed, can be understood, in reading.
"Doing identity" is such a useful concept because it makes identity, which replaces the rather hazy notion of "culture" in this suggestion, understandable as something changing, instable, and always in flux. Because it is based on a constructivist notion of identity, it fits in well with cognitive views of reading, both challenging monolithic and essentialist notions of meaning, identity, and culture. This gives students more agency to engage actively in exploring issues of identity, and provides plenty of opportunities for the action- and production-oriented language learning activities that are so much in demand now.
In my examples, I will mainly be referring to literature for young readers that focusses on issues of ethnic or cultural identity, and demonstrate how, by constructing meanings from literature, students can "do identity" in the language classroom, while at the same time "doing language".
Examples will be taken from the work of Malorie Blackman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Beverley Naidoo, Sherman Alexie, and others.

PD Dr Susanne Reichl teaches and researches literature, cultural studies, and teaching methodology at the University of Vienna. Her research areas are children's and young adult literature, postcolonial studies, the teaching of reading strategies, tales of time travel, British cultural studies, and contemporary fiction in English. Cognitive principles, critical practice: Reading literature at university is just about to be published with Vienna University Press (September 2009).