Georgetown University Graduate Student Conference

In Partnership with the Initiative for Multilingual Studies and the Department of German


Conceptualizing, Investigating, and Practicing Multilingualism and Multiculturalism  

Friday, February 27 – Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keynote Speakers: Heidi Byrnes, Georgetown University & Anna De Fina, Georgetown University


With the publication of the Modern Language Association’s 2007 Report “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World”, the terms multilingualism and multiculturalism have received heightened attention and been expanded to include the ideas of translingual and transcultural competence. While many scholars have defined multilingualism as the ability to communicate in more than one language (Cenoz, Hufeisen, & Jessner, 2003; Li, 2008), other conceptualizations, particularly those influenced by third language acquisition studies and functional definitions of language, reconceive multilingualism as the ability to use multiple languages as resources contingent upon communicative needs and social contexts (Cenoz, 2013). Even as definitions of multilingualism expand, as seen in scholarly contributions to the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 33, (2013), it is still refracted most typically through the lens of monolingualism and conceptualized through nation-state-centered perspectives (Yildiz, 2012). To address this concern, scholarly work is now exploring such concepts as transculturalism and –lingualism, which are being defined as the studies of power relationships/formations and meaning-making in language throughout history as one acknowledges the multiplicity of one's identity and position in the nation state (Cuccioletta, 2002; Lewis, 2002).  Within this field, scholars (e.g., Appadurai, 1996; Bhaba, 1990; Mani, 2007; Seyhan, 2001) explore aesthetics, political claims, and such phenomena as cosmopolitan citizenship that unsettle concepts of home, belonging, and culture, which can redress the ruptures in history, collective memory, and language. In light of widespread globalization, we are interested in definitions of multi/translingualism, multi/transculturalism, and related terms that move away from essentialized and idealized notions of the nation-state (Cook, 1992; Kramsch, 2014). We are also interested in exploring the critical relationships between how multilingualism/multiculturalism is acquired in educational and other contexts, reflected upon and portrayed in artistic-literary-social media, and acknowledged, valued, or rejected in political and institutional action.

Keeping these foci and associated challenges in mind, our conference engages multilingualism and multiculturalism with an explicitly critical orientation in order to refine these terms in light of research and practice in literary and visual cultural criticism, history, linguistics, anthropology, and second/third/foreign language teaching and learning.


Possible topics for 20-minute presentations include but are not limited to:

  • Pedagogical practices and implications of multilingualism/multiculturalism
  • Multi/transcultural and/or multi/translingual practices and representations in literature, film, visual media, performance, etc.
  • Politics of power and access in multilingual societies
  • Governmental and institutional responsibilities in multilingual societies
  • Multi/translingualism and the brain
  • Bi/multilingual language acquisition
  • Multilingualism and language assessment
  • Globalization, migration, and transnational identities


Please submit abstracts of 250–300 words (including paper title, institutional affiliation and contact details) by 17 October 2014 to GUGradConference@gmail.com. (The deadline has been extended to November 3rd, 2014!) We will start sending notification of acceptances by 1 November 2014. Our conference will begin Friday, February 27 at 3:00pm and end Saturday, February 28 at 7:00pm. We look forward to your proposals!