When linguistic capital isn’t enough: personality development and English speakerhood as capital in India

Katy Highet, Alfonso Del Percio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Discourses of development, as well as popular understandings, hold that access to education in English is essential for alleviating inequality. As such, since the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s, India has witnessed a boom in not only private English coaching, but also NGO educational institutions. However, drawing on ethnographic data from an English and soft-skills training NGO in Delhi, this chapter argues that the conceptualization of linguistic capital does not fully capture how students invest in English in the hope of achieving future success. Besides the speculative capital (Tabiola & Lorente, 2017) that the language represents, and the shaping of neoliberal subjectivities through soft-skill training (Urciuoli, 2008; Allan, 2013) and “personality development”, students equally invest in the cultural capital of English speakerhood, that is, the “doing” and “being” of an English speaker, a notion deeply intertwined with class and caste, and which extends to encompass students’ bodies and “personalities”.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Commodification of Language
Subtitle of host publicationConceptual Concerns and Empirical Manifestations
EditorsJohn E. Petrovic, Bedrettin Yazran
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter8
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781003020851
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021

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