WP68 Beyond ‘safe-talk’: Institutionalization and agency in China’s English language education



This paper will discuss some of the pitfalls of the notion of ?safe-talk? (Chick 1996), a fruitful analytical concept that has been widely used in classroom discourse studies to link chorus-like repetition sequences with certain institutional and social processes related to either post-colonialism or migration. The discussion will draw on a sociolinguistic ethnography carried out in three urban schools that were involved in the implementation of the reforms aimed at modernizing education in contemporary China. By going beyond dichotomized approaches between those who are interested in capturing institutional processes of social reproduction and those who prefer to focus on individual actions and choices in classroom practices, this article reflects on the pertinence of the representation of such chorus-like repetition sequences as a discursive space in which certain social identities are produced, attributed value, circulated and contested according to institutional logic and in view of the different interests at stake. This representation provides a more integrative perspective for the study of relations between agency and ideology in the Chinese institutional context.