Critical ethnography of language policy in the global south: insights from research in Timor-Leste

Estêvão Cabral, Marilyn Martin-jones

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This special issue focuses on language policy processes at work, in different sectors of education, in one small multilingual nation situated on the global periphery: the nation of Timor-Leste, in South East Asia. The four articles in this special issue draw on research of a broadly critical and ethnographic nature. To set these articles within a wider research context, the first section of this Introduction charts the development of critical approaches to the study of language policy and planning (LPP). The second section then delineates two main strands of ethnographic research related to LPP processes and points to some of the ways in which the scope of critical, ethnographic research has been widened in recent years. In the third section, we introduce the four articles, highlighting the distinctive nature of the ethnographic research presented in each one. In the fourth section, we show how the articles illustrate the need to combine ethnography with a critical, historical perspective, and with close attention to contemporary global processes, such as the commodification of particular languages. In the final section, we offer reflections on the possibilities for contributing to change in language policy and practice, in Timor-Leste and elsewhere, through researcher-practitioner collaboration of a critical, ethnographic nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Critical ethnography
  • Language-in-education policy
  • Timor-Leste


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