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Book Review: Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows by Alastair Pennycook - New York: Routledge. 2007.

Book Review: Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows by Alastair Pennycook - New York: Routledge. 2007.

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Published by Philip Ketzel
This is a book review I wrote for a masters seminar in linguistics. It got marked B+ with the explanation that my own opinion on the book should have been more direct. I really liked this book because it combines the theories of Foucault, Butler, Lyotard and many others in order to show that Hip Hop, with all its various modal aspects, can be understood as a form of Global English. Please feel free to correct my grammar and spelling, so I can revise it when I feel like it.
This is a book review I wrote for a masters seminar in linguistics. It got marked B+ with the explanation that my own opinion on the book should have been more direct. I really liked this book because it combines the theories of Foucault, Butler, Lyotard and many others in order to show that Hip Hop, with all its various modal aspects, can be understood as a form of Global English. Please feel free to correct my grammar and spelling, so I can revise it when I feel like it.

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Published by: Philip Ketzel on Nov 18, 2010
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08/26/2012

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University of Potsdam - English DepartmentProfessor Dr. Hans-Georg Wolf Master Seminar: Asian and African EnglishesAuthor: Philip Ketzel19. March 2010
Book Review
Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows
by Alastair Pennycook New York: Routledge. 2007.
“How is English related to cultural forms and practices? Does its global spread now
make it a culturally neutral language? Is the spread of English part of the gradual homogeni-
zation of the world? […] Or is English part of the
greater diversification and heterogenisationof the World?
(5) Those are the framing
questions for Pennycook‟s
study in which he ex-plores the interconnections between hip-hop and English in a globalizing society and ques-tions the common concepts of language and education. What seems to be a very complex en-deavor at first turns out to be a remarkable work about the transnational and transcultural ex-changes and shaping of ideas, identity, culture and language.In order to work out the various aspects necessary to understand the correlations be-tween hip-hop and English, the text incorporates many scientific discourses and concepts, es-pecially in first half of the text. The approach of the study is described by Pennycook astransgressive applied linguistics, which means to push
“the boundaries of applied linguistics
by interlinking an understanding of global Englishes, the transmodal practices of hip-hop, and
questions of performativity, identity and pedagogy.”
(9)The first chapter starts out with an anecdote about a rap concert in Malaysia fromwhich Pennycook draws his first examples, lyrics that are in the typical hip-hop English butat the same time use Malaysian words and idioms to allude to the distinct local. On the basis
 
Ketzel 2of these examples, he elaborates how English is used by non native speakers to contextualizeand re-contextualize common practices, aspects and identities found in popular culture. Tograsp this process Pennycook introduces the term
transcultural flows
addressing
the ways inwhich cultural forms move, change and are reused to fashion new identities in diverse con-
texts.”
(6) He applies this view onto Hip-hop
 because he is “interested in how music and la
n-guage
 – 
with a particular focus on hip-hop and English
 – 
are simultaneously fluid and fixed,move across space, borders, communities, nations, but also become localized, indigenized,re-
created in the local.”
(8) Therefore he asks how such an use of English should be unders-tood in terms of a linguistic concept raising questions like whether this is an example of Eng-lish as a killer language, or a new form of English emerging. His proposal is the implementa-tion of the term
global Englishes
, which he uses “
to locate the spread and use of English
within critical theories of globalization”
(5), because it is helpful
to understand the role of English both critically
 – 
in terms of new forms of power, control and destruction
 – 
and in itscomplexity
 – 
in terms of new forms of resistance, change, appro
 priation, and identity.”
(5) Amore detailed elaboration of global Englishes and transcultural flows applied on the exampleof hip-hop is then the main concern of the book.In the second chapter, Pennycook 
“seeks to connect globalization and English.”
(18)He therefore redraws the two main opposing interpretations of globalization
 – 
namely thehomogenization and the heterogenisation of the world
 – 
and their connectedness to English.However, his understanding of globalization and English tries to go beyond such dichotomiesby arguing that the linguistic imperialism and the world Englishes framework 
“are
both miredin a linguistics and a politics of the last century, focusing inexorably on languages and na-tions as given entities, and ill-equipped to deal w
ith current modes of globalization.”
(23) Ac-cording to Pennycook, the practice of center linguists like Kachru, to systematize variants of the periphery Englishes by postulating a nation specific standard, needs to be criticized be-
 
Ketzel 3cause it leaves
“out many eccentric, hybrid forms of local Englishes as too unsystematic.”
(23) In other words, since the concept of national culture becomes blurred in a globalizingsociety, it also becomes important to criticize the validity of the linguistic notion variety.Therefore, using the term global Englishes,
Pennycook aims at an understanding “that focu
s-es on both a critical understanding of globali
zation and a critical understanding of language.”
(23) The global Englishes concept needs to be understood against a background of complexeconomical, social, cultural and political relations. (23)In order to legitimizes his critic of the linguistic imperialism and the world Englishesframework, Pennycook locates his study in the context of transgressive theories in the thirdchapter. He says that this
is necessary to cope with the “‟kaleidoscopic, ludic open flavor‟ of 
language use in hip-hop
that needs to be taken seriously as performance and transgression.”
(35) By using
the „trans‟ prefix
in many different ways in this section, the author wants topoint out that his proposed form of transgressive theory tries to go beyond former
„post‟ and„critical‟
theories, and that it is intended
to account for the transgressions of hip-hop and todisrupt some standard onthologies
[…] of language
in general and English in particular.
” (36)
 With the latter, he is alluding to Butler
‟s
and Foucault
‟s questioning of power, sexuality,
identity and knowledge. Since this is not so easy to grasp right away, it seems appropriatehere to use Pennyco
ok‟s own word
s when describing what he means by transgressive appliedlinguistics.
“Rather than a method, a set of techniques or a fixed body of knowledge, I see critical
applied linguistics as a
movable praxis
, a constantly shifting and dynamic approach to ques-tions of language in multiple contexts. Rather than viewing critical applied linguistics as anew form of interdisciplinary knowledge, I prefer to view it as a form of 
anti
-disciplinary ortransgressive knowledge, as a way of thinking and doing that is always problematizing. Thismeans not only that critical applied linguistics implies a hybrid model of research and praxis,but also that it generates something which is far more dynamic. Critical applied linguisticsfrom this perspective is not about the mapping of a fixed politics on to a static body of know-
ledge, but rather is about creating something new.”
(37)
 

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