Congolese Women Speak: Languaging, Translanguaging and Discursive Cross-culturing as Resources for Empowerment

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Over approximately a one year period in 2019-2020, I undertook a project with a small group of women asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are resident in Manchester, UK. This project was my second as a volunteer life writing facilitator for a charitable organisation called ‘Women Asylum Seekers Together’ (WAST website). The project encouraged the women to write stories and poems about their homeland. They chose mainly to write in French which is the official language of the Democratic Republic of Congo. While undertaking my role as writing facilitator for the Congolese group, I kept a journal. Using this journal for the purposes of an autoethnography (Wall 2008), I explore in this article how languaging (Thibault 2011), translanguaging (Mazzafero 2018) and making cross-cultural comparisons in interactions functioned as sources of empowerment for this group of structurally disempowered women. In other words, the focus is on how certain elements of communication can play a role in terms of power balancing. This paper contributes to reflection on the role of creative writing workshops for asylum seekers and refugees, a topic that has not received much scholarly attention. More broadly, it fits into the recent call for language and intercultural communication research to engage with social action (Ladegaard & Phipps 2020) by presenting a case of a ‘two hat approach’ where I am both a writing facilitator for asylum seekers and a researcher.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage and Intercultural Communication
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jul 2020