WP241 Language, neoliberalism, and the commodification of pedagogy

Soto & PĂ©rez-Milans
Collection: Key word


This paper argues that, although research on neoliberalism and language commodification has helped reveal the material conditions under which language education programs are implemented worldwide, existing sociolinguistic literature has not yet adequately addressed pedagogy. As a result, processes commodifying ” objects ” other than language as a product have often gone unnoticed in educational settings. Drawing on a four-year ethnographic project, we explore the changing neoliberal political economy and systemic reforms under which pedagogy became a ” discursive space ” (Heller, 2007) in Hong Kong. In particular, we detail the processes whereby social actors formulated pedagogy as a ” commodity register ” (Agha, 2011) used to create distinction and value, index normative roles and desirable social personae, and adapt to market pressures. We also show how some social actors concurrently constructed pedagogy as a resource for advancing ethnic-group linked activist concerns, leading to unpredicted institutional tensions, interpersonal dilemmas, forms of inequality, and social relations of labor.