September 2014
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Bedrettin Yazan, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA & Nathanael Rudolph, Mukogawa Women's University, Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan


Nathanael Rudolph

Within the field of ELT, the NNEST movement,1 and the contents of this edition of the NNEST Newsletter, there is ontological and epistemological variety underpinning the way in which (in)equity is conceptualized. These various worldviews, in turn, shape differing approaches to addressing inequity within scholarship and other professional activities. In this article, we seek to apprehend and provide an overview of conceptual approaches to (in)equity, and then briefly discuss the implications such variety might have for participation in and direction for the movement.

For decades, scholars have sought to apprehend the origin, construction, and perpetuation of the native speaker (NS) construct in ELT. The most frequent critically-oriented approach to the NS construct includes its conceptualization as a universalized, stable truth in global ELT, wherein an idealized NS is the de facto owner of English, the holder of corresponding linguistic and cultural authority, and the standard by which all learners, users, and instructors of the language might be measured (e.g., Leung, 2005). This NS is constructed as Caucasian, Western, and generally as male (e.g., Braine, 1999).

Holliday’s (2005, 2006) conceptualization of native speakerism (NS-ism), or the maintenance and perpetuation of the NS construct by NSs and nonnative speakers (NNSs) alike, corresponds with the notion of the NS construct as universal in nature. From this viewpoint, NS-ism: 1) is Western in origin; 2) is ubiquitous, and, to a large degree, uniform in its manifestations; 3) flows out of globalized ELT into local contexts; and 4) privileges native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) and marginalizes NNESTs (in accordance with the NS fallacy). Approaches to in(equity) grounded in this understanding of the NS construct and NS-ism actualize categories of identity and apprehend in(equity) through the lens of critically-oriented, categorical binaries: NS/NNS and NEST/NNEST (e.g., Menard-Warwick, 2008). These binaries suppose a common NNEST (and NEST) “experience” situated within the “field of ELT” and the multiplicity of learning, using, and teaching contexts therein. Hence, the facilitation of awareness, activism, and advocacy is deemed largely uniform in nature, seeking to address the “NNEST condition” in the interest of cultivating equity in the profession.

More recently, postmodern and poststructural scholarship has advocated for the reconceptualization of identity beyond categorical constraints (e.g., Motha, Jain, & Tecle, 2012). This scholarship argues that such categories oversimplify and neglect learner, user, and instructor identities by effectively stripping individuals of voice and agency. Identity, through the postmodern and poststructural lens, is “fluid, multiple, diverse, dynamic, varied, shifting, subject to change and contradictory. It is regarded to be socially organized, reorganized, constructed, co-constructed, and continually reconstructed through language and discourse. It is unstable, flexible, ongoing, negotiated, and multiple” (Kouhpaeenejad & Gholaminejad, 2014, p. 200).

From this perspective, scholars contend that the NS construct, NS-ism, and the NS fallacy are the product of the interaction between glocal discourses of identity,2 flowing fluidly in and out of ELT and the context in which it is situated (e.g., Houghton & Rivers, 2013). These discourses, cultivated and maintained by individuals, entities, and institutions deriving authority from their perpetuation, seek to establish borders of being and becoming, regarding who individuals “are,” and can or should become, which includes their status as learners, users, and teachers of English (Rudolph, 2013). In establishing borders of being and becoming, such discourses attempt to restrict or eliminate space for teachers whose identities do not correspond with glocal constructions of linguistic and cultural authority, whether in terms of the idealized NS or membership in the local community.The complexity of how these discourses manifest and are negotiated by individuals in their assertion of agency, challenge static, conceptual descriptions of learner, user and teacher identity, of context, and of privilege and marginalization therein. Thus, there is neither a shared nor completely identical NEST nor NNEST experience: Privilege and marginalization are fluidly and dynamically constructed in glocal ELT contexts. A postmodern and poststructural worldview, therefore, would argue that conceptual and practical approaches to (in)equity attend to its complexity as socioculturally and sociohistorically constructed and situated in context.

In the spirit of postmodern and poststructural scholarship, we contend that scholars are negotiating conceptual and descriptive borders within the field, leading to complex formulations of worldview and (in)equity. Thus, for instance, scholars may acknowledge that “NESTs” and “NNESTs” experience fluid privilege and marginalization that cannot be contained within categorical descriptions of identity, while at the same time retaining a critically-oriented binary framework for approaching inquiry. What does this diversity of worldviews mean for the NNEST-IS, and the NNEST movement in general? We assert that attending to this diversity is key to cultivating constructive dialogue with the intention of shaping the purpose for and direction of the movement to address the complex issues of equity and inclusivity.

In approaching dialogue, we posit that our community must attend to the varied meanings our members and associates pour into the words they use, in conceptualizing and approaching equity. Such attention may facilitate more constructive interaction between us, and, in turn, cultivate clearer and more productive dialogue with the ELT community and stakeholders in ELT, in general. Additionally, we maintain the IS and NNEST movement in general would benefit from the increased incorporation of learner, user, and instructor accounts of the negotiation of identity, and the glocal construction, perpetuation, and maintenance of borders of identity, into the ELT literature, our IS, and other professional activities. This, we believe, would be a move toward addressing local accounts of privilege and marginalization in the “global,” while at the same time cultivating a “global” that might more specifically attend to the “local.” This would provide teachers with space for agency and voice, and therefore participation in knowledge construction in the field, beyond the overgeneralized and stifling categories of “NEST” and “NNEST.” In moving beyond categories of identity, the IS and NNEST movement within and beyond TESOL International Association would necessarily confront and resolve the issue of nomenclature, to better align with the first expressed goal of the NNEST movement: “to create a nondiscriminatory professional environment for all [emphasis added] TESOL members regardless of native language and place of birth” (NNEST IS, 2014b).

1 In TESOL International Association, the NNEST acronym relates to “nonnative English speakers in TESOL” (NNEST IS, 2014a). Scholarship and professional activities addressing issues of equity and the status of “nonnative” English-speaking teachers can also be referred to as the NNEST movement, with the acronym referring to “non-native English speaker teacher/s” (Selvi, 2011). In this article, we conceptualize the movement as including both within and beyond organization-specific activities.

2 Discourses are “systems of power/knowledge (Foucault, 1980) that regulate and assign value to all forms of semiotic activity” (Morgan, 2007, p. 1036). Power, according to Foucault (1984), shapes societal perspectives of “correct,” “normal,” and “acceptable,” via the construction, maintenance, and perpetuation of “regimes of truth.”


Braine, G. (1999). Non-native educators in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Foucault, M. (1984). The Foucault reader (P. Rabinow, Ed.). New York, NY: Pantheon.

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal, 60(4), 385–387.

Houghton, S. A., & Rivers, D. J. (2013). Introduction: Redefining native speakerism. In S. A. Houghton & D. J. Rivers (Eds.), Native-speakerism in Japan: Intergroup dynamics in foreign language education (pp. 1–16). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.

Kouhpaeenejad, M., & Gholaminejad, R. (2014). Identity and language learning from post-structuralist perspective. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 5(1), 199-204.

Leung, C. (2005). Convivial communication: Recontextualizing communicative competence. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15(2), 119–144.

Menard-Warwick, J. (2008). The cultural and intercultural identities of transnational English teachers: Two case studies from the Americas. TESOL Quarterly, 42, 617–640.

Morgan, B. (2007). Poststructuralism and applied linguistics. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 1033–1052). New York, NY: Springer.

Motha, S., Jain, R., & Tecle, T. (2012). Translinguistic identity-as-pedagogy: Implications for language teacher education. International Journal of Innovation in English Language Teaching, 1(1), 13–27.

NNEST Interest Section. (2014a). Homepage. Retrieved from

NNEST Interest Section. (2014b). Goals of the NNEST Interest Section. Retrieved from

Rudolph, N. (2013). Beyond binaries: Constructing and negotiating borders of identity in glocalized ELT. NNEST IS Newsletter, 12. Retrieved from

Selvi, A. F. (2011). The non-native speaker teacher. ELT Journal. 65(2), 187–189.

Bedrettin Yazan is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His research interests include English as an international language, language teacher identity, collaboration between ESL and content area teachers, and sociocultural theories in second language acquisition.

Nathanael Rudolph is currently teaching at the university level in Japan. His research interests include postmodern and poststructural approaches to language, culture and identity, equity in the field of English language teaching, and the contextualization and teaching of English as an international language.

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