ReCal Research Network – “Decolonizing Applied Linguistics Research: An Editorial Project”

Claire KRAMSCH, the founder of the ReCAL research network, shared with us excerpts from her AILA Lyon 2023 presentation to give us an overview of the network’s historical perspective and the developed or ongoing projects.

Decolonizing applied linguistics research: An editorial project

The Research Network ReCAL or Research Cultures in Applied Linguistics, was established in 2015 by the AILA Executive Committee. The role was to examine the cultural, political, epistemological and methodological diversity of applied linguistics research in the various countries, members of AILA; as well as the diversity of institutional conditions in which the research is conducted.

Since 2015, AILA has offered several symposia ReCAL in Europe and the United States for regional conferences on applied linguistics. And the Research Network has also been invited to coordinate a symposium at the AILA International Congress: in Brazil in 2017, by Paula Szundy and Rogerio Tilio; in the Netherlands in 2022, by Marjolijn Verspoor and Kees de Bot and In France in 2023, by Gregory Miras. This Research Network (ReN) focuses on three areas of interest:

  1. Scientific culture. In order to know, how theories from Global North and Global South countries have been received, interpreted and put into practice in different countries with different intellectual, scientific and educational traditions.
  2. Editorial culture. To determine the opportunities and constraints of publishing in English. In particular, how to publish in English without losing the conceptual, epistemological and pedagogical specificity of a research often conceived in a language different from English.
  3. Pedagogical culture. To find out, what are the epistemological and political bases of language teaching in different education systems.

At the AILA International Congress in the Netherlands in 2022, the title of the symposium was “The dynamics of language, communication and culture in applied linguistic research in Latin America” and most speakers were English teachers in various Latin American countries1. Participants sought to respond to changes due to globalization: inequalities and social justice; epistemological and ideological sequels of colonialism; deconstruction and postmodern theories concerning the language-identity-culture relationship; and the didactic foundations of language teaching.

One of the central themes of this symposium was the dominant role played by English in research on language learning and teaching, but also in the development of communicative and intercultural competence. How to teach English and conduct research in applied linguistics without necessarily adopting theories and pedagogies from the Global North? How to publish the results of this research in English but without neglecting the national and indigenous languages in which this research was conceived? Much of the discussion centered around the need to consider decolonization research and practices, but… What was meant by decolonization?

As organizers of the 2022 ReCAL symposium Claire KRAMSCH (Emerita Professor at Berkeley University), Harold CASTEÑEDA (PhD Professor at Universidad Distritital Francisco José de Caldas) and Paola GAMBOA (PhD Lecturer at Sorbonne Nouvelle University) have decided to coordinate a volume on the decolonization of research in applied linguistics in Latin America. In this volume, researchers from Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and United States of America, were invited to report on their work, adopting as much as possible a reflexive stance, but also to offer a critical analysis of their efforts to decolonize their research projects. In particular, they would analyze, using Spanish or Portuguese and English, their own locus of enunciation / lugar de enunciación / lugar de fala. The title of the volume is “Decolonization of applied linguistics research in Latin America: moving to a multilingual mindset” and it will be published in September 2023 by Routledge.

It was decided to ask each author to base his report and reflection on the notion of locus of enunciation, a term inspired by the work of researchers like Ramon Grosfoguel (2007)2 from Puerto Rico, Walter Mignolo from Argentina and Catherine Walsh (2018)3, and Eduardo Diniz de Figueiredo (2021)4 from Brazil. In Latin America, the locus of enunciation adds a social, cultural, and political dimension to the French notion of situation of enunciation that comes from Benveniste (1966)5. By making explicit not only the questions of linguistic enunciation (who speaks? to whom? in what context?), but also the place from which we speak, the place from which one exercises real or symbolic power over others and the place from which one is subjected to the real or symbolic domination of others, we begin to define the contours of a “colonial” power in the acts of enunciation of the speaking subject.

Enunciation itself is no longer simply the discursive process by which a speaking subject is placed in particular spatiotemporal circumstances that vary according to the identity of the speaker and the listener. Rather, this situation of enunciation is itself created by the choices made by the interlocutors in exchange situations (face to face, on the telephone, in writing, etc.); and by the way they position themselves in relation to each other, in relation to the language they choose to speak (rather than another language), and the message they seek to communicate.

The term colonial here means more than the historical domination of one people by another. It is a relationship of forces between, for example: native speaker and non-native speaker, between English speakers and non-English speakers, between speakers of a dominant national language and speakers of indigenous or other minority languages, between users of binary or non-binary writing, between those who use standard grammar and pronunciation and those who use a non-standard way of speaking. But if this colonial balance of power is reflected in the way people talk, it doesn’t determine how people think. As Ramon Grosfoguel says, the place of enunciation is indeed the geopolitical place where the speaking subject is situated, but it does not necessarily dictate its epistemological positionality. Therefore, the possibility for the three of us to conceive an editorial project concerning a decolonization of scientific knowledge in research, teaching-learning and didactics of languages and in applied linguistics. As the title of Eduardo de Figueiredo’s article (2021) indicates, making explicit “the place of enunciation is a way of confronting epistemological racist discourse and decolonizing scientific knowledge” by levelling off its universalist aims and historicizing its claims to objectivity.

The symposium the RECAL research Network presented at the AILA International Congress in Lyon in 2023, stems from this volume and from the idea of this 20th congress, to move towards a more committed applied linguistics. This symposium with the theme “Diversity and inclusion in teacher’s development and pedagogic practices in culturally different educational systems” will be coordinated by Claire KRAMSCH and Paola GAMBOA.

Lecturer at Sorbonne Nouvelle Université
AILA ReN ReCAL Coordinator


1Claire KRAMSCH. United States of America.
Pedro GARCEZ. Brazil.
Carmen GUERRERO NIETO. Colombia.
Harold CASTAÑEDA. Colombia.
Paola GAMBOA. Colombia & France.
Lane IGOUDIN. United States of America.
Matilde OLIVERO. Argentina.
Yecid ORTEGA. Colombia & Canada.
Gabriela TAVELLA. Melina PORTO. Carina FERNANDEZ. Argentina.
Rogério TILIO. Brazil.
Jaime USMA. Janeth ORTIZ. Maure GUTIERREZ. Colombia.
2Grosfoguel, R. (2007). The epistemic decolonial turn: Beyond political-economy paradigms. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 211-223.
3Mignolo, W. D., & Walsh, C. E. (2018). On decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Duke University Press.
4Diniz de Figueiredo, E. H., & Martinez, J. (2021). The locus of enunciation as a way to confront epistemological racism and decolonize scholarly knowledge. Applied Linguistics, 42(2), 355–359.
5Benveniste, E. (1966). Problèmes de linguistique générale. Paris: Gallimard.