Methodological Applications of Membership Categorization Analysis for Social Class Research

Methodological Applications of Membership Categorization Analysis for Social Class Research Abstract Since Block’s (2012) article, ‘Class and SLA: Making connections’, social class has received increased attention in applied linguistics research. This growing scholarship, however, yet is in need of a more robust theorization and rigorous methodological framework for investigating class-based research inquiries. This article thereby proposes Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) as one possible approach for examining the participants’ endogenous makings of social class in situ . With interview excerpts of mothers discussing an English immersion policy proposal in South Korea, I will demonstrate how MCA can produce an analysis that is empirically grounded in the participants’ own categorial knowledge and commonsense reasoning about stratified social structure. Such an approach respecifies social class from being a rigid, abstract, and predetermined construct to a socially constructed category and accomplishment that is made relevant in the participants’ methods of practical action. INTRODUCTION The past decade in applied linguistics has witnessed a great deal of scholarship on power and inequality between the haves and the have-nots, both within and across different countries ( Phillipson 2009 ). While much of this research discusses gender and ethnicity as recognizable and redistributing constructs of social stratification ( Kubota and Lin 2009 ), relatively little has dealt with social class. David Block (2014) called this absence of discussion ‘class erasure’ and contended that ‘there is a need to introduce social class as a key construct’ in current and future research (p. 70). Due to this call, there has been a recent growth of class-based scholarship in applied linguistics as in Block’s monograph Social Class in Applied Linguistics and Vandrick’s (2014) special issue in the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education . At this initial stage, research on class and inequity in the field needs not just increased quantity but, more importantly, a robust theorization of social class and a rigorous methodological framework for carrying out class-based research agendas ( Block 2015 ; Kanno 2014 ). The theoretical, methodological, and analytical approaches of social class research are often opaque and unaccounted for, and there is still an overwhelming tendency to approach class as a rigid and objective construct. These are substantial issues, inviting consideration of the current definitions and approaches to social class. This article attempts to open the discussion by briefly reviewing the theoretical conceptualizations and methodological issues in class-based applied linguistics research. Then, I will propose Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) as a profitable, emic method for analyzing class in terms of participants’ own local categories and practical orientations rather than taking it for granted as a predetermined label or identity. The methodological discussion will be grounded in sample analyses of interview excerpts wherein two mothers are discussing an English immersion policy proposal in South Korea. APPROACHES TO SOCIAL CLASS IN APPLIED LINGUISTICS A starting point for discussing social class is to define what exactly is meant by class. Derived from the classic theorizations of Karl Marx (1859/1904 , 1867/1976 ) and Max Weber (1922/1978 ), more contemporary conceptualizations of class have been developed by Raymond Williams (1977) , Pierre Bourdieu (1984) , and Mike Savage (2000) . According to Block (2015 : 3), the common basis of these views is the distinction between class in itself and class for itself . The former refers to class as lived experiences in relation to structural conditions (e.g. workplace conditions, life opportunities, financial circumstances), and the latter refers to ‘class consciousness’ or ‘meta-level’ ideologies, images, and discourses that people hold about different social groups ( Wright 2005 ; Rampton 2006 ). This notion preserves the Marxian foundation of foregrounding the material and economic accounts of social life, while also addressing the Weberian interest in sociocultural aspects of class that go beyond the traditional indexes of income, occupation, and education. Combining these classic ideas with the influential work of Bourdieu (1984 , 1991 ), recent inquiries on class include analyses that are not limited to the relationship between industrial and community relations, but also extend to places of residence, social networking, spatial relations, leisure, and consumption behaviors. As a result, now widely accepted in most sociological research is a conceptualization that views class as (i) a multidimensional construct; (ii) a social and cultural category through which distinctive practices emerge and influence attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of class members; and (iii) a lived experience that captures how the participants being researched actually act and think in regards to their position in society ( Savage et al. 2010 ; Block 2014 ; Vandrick 2014 ). In applied linguistics, current research on social class, despite its surprising scarcity ( Block 2012 , 2014 , 2015 ), has addressed the core sociological topics of class consciousness, the relationship between class and structural conditions, and identities regarding language learning and use. First, several studies have employed statistical measures to investigate the correlation between class position and access to language or language varieties. The earliest work traces back to that of William Labov (1966) , who explored statistically verifiable links between social positions and speech varieties. The Labovian variationists repeatedly showed that in a stratified society, people can be categorized into working class or upper middle class according to the individual’s speech repertoire, as in patterns of accent and style variation ( Trudgill 1974 ; Milroy and Milroy 1978 ). More recent work includes that of Butler (2013) and Liu (2012) , who used large-scale quantitative data to show that in the Chinese context, parental beliefs, and behaviors toward English education are different across social classes, and can thereby influence children’s language learning outcomes and opportunities. These studies reported that social class is a determining factor in students’ language learning processes (see also e.g. Zou and Zhang 2011 ; Kanno and Cromley 2013 ), but share a crucial shortcoming in that ‘they follow fairly limited frameworks derived from questionnaire-based sociological work, with the listing of the general indicators income, occupation, and educational level sufficing as an explanation’ ( Block 2014 : 93). Social class cannot be operationalized as a rigid, stable variable, and inequality is much more than a statistical difference. Moreover, preconceived categories of social class, no matter how many are considered, are the analyst’s categories and not the participants’. An analysis that relies on a few pregiven categories is reductionist and ‘crudely schematic’ ( Piketty 2014 : 252). It also fails to capture the lived reality of the participants in terms of local descriptions and categories that are their own—‘how people perceive themselves and live their lives’ ( Pennycook 2015 : 270). Another strand of social class research in applied linguistics has taken qualitative approaches, viewing class as an identity inscription that is related to language learning, use, and development. For instance, Bonny Norton’s (2000) ethnographic work on immigrant women in Canada discussed class as a mediating factor that determined their access to English-speaking environments. Block (2007) focused on a Colombian man living in the UK whose ‘middle class habitus’ served to distance him from his working class colleagues. Park and Abelmann (2004) and Shin (2014) produced class-based descriptions of ‘working-class’ and ‘middle-class’ mothers and their positions in the stratified structure of English education in Korea. While these studies have contributed to our understanding of social class and language learning, with Bourdieu’s ideas largely framing the research, one common weakness is that the data are often over-quoted and under-analyzed, and the researcher’s narratives or summaries are used as substitutes for what the participants said (see also e.g. Vandrick 2011 ; López-Gopar and Sughrua 2014 ). Such an approach not only overlooks the discursive details of the original ( Antaki et al. 2003 ), but obscures the participants’ lived experiences and social categories in favor of an abstract and analyst-driven description of social class ( Billig 1997 ; Fitzgerald and Housley 2015 ). Furthermore, many researchers tend to adopt Bourdieu’s as the default approach, but macro-interpretations that impose social structure on the participants need to be empirically grounded in the data ( Blommaert and Makoe 2011 : 13). Importing exogenous social theories into class-based research entails using the predetermined categories of the theories, with the resulting analysis ‘being to some degree driven by the theory rather than the data, regardless of how well the theory actually fits the data, and even when the theory does not fit at all’ ( Hauser 2011 : 351). Instead of putting the discursive complexity and socially engaged nature of the data to close analysis, this approach can risk committing a type of class erasure that misses what the relevancies are for the participants ( Bramlett 2015 : 216). Lastly, the unproblematized use of labels such as ‘middle class habitus’ and ‘working-class mother’ can impose a class reading that is not warranted by the data. The danger of readily subscribing to these labels is not only that the identity ascriptions may not be relevant to the participants’ concerns, but that doing so may also preclude the possibility of discovering other potential relevancies ( Benwell and Stokoe 2006 : 37). In this article, therefore, I take a strictly data-driven approach to investigating class as the participants’ own social and cultural categories that are done, managed, achieved, and negotiated by the participants in situ . This approach does not substantiate class as an already known entity that is independent of the members’ practices and social understandings. Rather, class in itself becomes a topic of analytic inquiry—a category that is oriented to in the participants’ methods of practical reasoning and is made relevant by members as a local achievement in a particular context ( Berard 2006 : 238). Such a theoretical and analytic approach does not deny the existence of a material world as if ‘there is nothing beyond discourse’ ( Billig 1999 : 122) or as if any orientation to social class is coming from ‘nowhere’ ( Speer 2005 : 126). In fact, why people orient in their talk to certain social categories and their associated features, attributes, and predicates is because of a shared interpretative apparatus, or ‘common sense’ that is constituted by and constitutive of social structure ( Garfinkel 1967 ). The challenge of identifying material and social structures, however, is that they are abstract entities that are only inferable through the observable phenomena they generate, and we, because of our restricted analytic lens, are limited in our ability to make indisputable claims about ‘pure’ reality. In this regard, the methodological rigor of observing category work is that it is grounded in practices that are analytically tractable. The study of categories situates the investigation of social class within the participants’ sense-making practices, and it enables a technical analysis of the participants’ commonsense understanding of social organizations in ‘all their individual and contextual particularity’ ( Tranekjær 2015 : 11). This principle aligns with the well-established identity research in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis ( Antaki 2013 ), as well as similar developments in discursive psychology ( Wetherell 2007 ; Prior 2015 ), linguistic ethnography ( Rampton et al. 2014 ), cultural studies ( Hall and Du Gay 1996 ), and many other traditions of qualitative inquiry. In the next section, I will describe the theoretical principles of MCA and propose it as a methodological framework for anchoring class analyses in the members’ own understanding of social structure. MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIZATION ANALYSIS The primary methodology used in this study draws on MCA, an analytical approach rooted in ethnomethodology. Sacks’ (1972) interest was in the emic categories that were produced by the participants themselves as a critique to sociological research that was more analyst-driven. Baker (1997) upheld MCA as a powerful tool for analyzing the production of identities and social relationships, because it draws attention to how members of a society generate various categories to describe people in their talk and make sense of particular events ( Hester and Eglin 2003 ; Silverman 1998 ). In MCA, emphasis is placed on how membership categories are assembled in situ as a participants’ resource in achieving identities, realities, and social order ( Fitzgerald and Housley 2015 : 5). Such a conceptualization shifts focus away from macro-abstraction and instead enables the researcher to gain access to how members arrange common sense knowledge, versions of social reality, and moral assumptions in their talk, actions, and interactional practices. The basic principles of MCA are illustrated in Sacks’ (1974) classic example ‘The baby cried. The mommy picked it up’. We hear links between mommy and baby , and specifically in terms of the mommy being the mommy of that baby . According to Sacks, the main apparatus that allows us to associate the category of mommy with baby is the Membership Categorization Device (MCD) family , which explains how categories can be hearable as belonging together. Of course, Sacks argued that categories are also ‘inference-rich’ in that they are linked to specific category-bound activities (CBAs) that spell out the normative expectations about a mommy’s or baby’s behavior. For Sacks, categories, MCDs, and CBAs encapsulate an array of collections and shared commonsense knowledge that are part of the members’ ordinary methods of practical sense making. How does all of this relate to class? In the previous section, I reviewed the conceptualization of social class in current sociological research as (i) a multidimensional construct, (ii) a social and cultural category through which distinctive practices of the participants emerge, and (iii) a lived experience1 that captures how the participants act and think in regards to their position in society. MCA takes the similar view that all identities (e.g. ethnic, gender, class) are dynamic, rather than fixed, and in investigating these contingent identities, categories produced in the participants’ activities are the core machinery for gaining access to the members’ commonsensical frameworks of social structure. Although class has not become a substantial focus in MCA research quite yet, scholars have been interested in applying MCA to race and gender identity research. For instance, MCA studies have shown that ethnic categories are made relevant among speakers by means of explicit category naming and CBAs (e.g. Day 1998 ; Hansen 2005 ; Higgins 2007 ). Another focus has been on feminism and gender-implicative categories (e.g. Eglin and Hester 1999 ; Saft and Ohara 2003 ; Speer and Stokoe 2011 ). Stokoe (2010) examined how, in police interrogations, male suspects denied accusations of having assaulted women. Stokoe argued that the men’s production of category-based denials (e.g. ‘I’m not gonna hit a lady’) invoke the category pairs of man–woman and perpetrator–victim , indexing a naturalized discourse of male dominance and power. By locating gender within the participants’ categories, these studies pinpoint moments in interaction when the members demonstrate their orientation to feminist concerns such as sexism, heteronormativity, and gender trouble. Previous MCA research along these lines testifies to its potential for dealing with politically motivated, critical agendas in power, ideology, and social reproduction (e.g. Berard 2005 ; Talmy 2009 ). Expanding upon this body of research, the practical utility of MCA approaches has also been realized in applied linguistics to address various social, political, and cultural issues related to language education (e.g. Mondada 2004 ; Mazeland and Berenst 2006 ; Tranekjær 2015 ). In this article, I will employ these MCA notions to show how the participants proffer categorization work, that is, aligning and disassociating with membership categories, as part of their commonsensical framework for understanding social class. My aim is to show that class is not simply invoked as a preexisting entity but actively constituted in the participants their categorial knowledge and commonsense practical reasoning about stratified social structure. The data for the sample analyses come from a set of research interviews in which two mothers provided their assessments of an English immersion policy in South Korea. I will first explain the context of the proposal, the data collection, participants, and the interview method. In the analyses, attention will be given to the discursive positions the mothers create for themselves and for their children as they assign self and other categories in the unfolding interview interaction. CONTEXT The South Korean immersion policy proposal On 23 January 2008, the presidential transition committee of South Korea unveiled their ‘English Education Roadmap’, a proposal to reform the current teaching system and improve Koreans’ English proficiency. This $4.25 billion project was to be completed in the following five years, primarily with the motive of increasing national competitiveness, reducing household spending on private education, and promoting educational equality in Korean society. Originally, the committee had planned for all public schools to teach non-English subjects in English starting from 2010. Within 5 days of the initial proposal, however, the committee withdrew their initial plan after critics severely challenged its feasibility, citing the massive budget requirement and lack of proficient teachers. Faced with strong public backlash, the committee revised their plan and proposed that only English classes be taught in English. They also postponed the policy’s implementation until 2012 or 2013. Nevertheless, unintended consequences continued to be produced from the proposal that further exacerbated public opposition. There was a rush of students to private language schools to prepare for the new system, with students living in remote areas temporarily moving to bigger cities to attend private English institutes. Other critiques centered on the impracticality of the policy. Some in the media claimed that the proficiency of teachers and the students was too low for the successful implementation of English-medium classes. Another strong criticism was that the policy would exacerbate the English Divide. 2 It was feared that the more English in public schools is emphasized, the more that people who can afford it will flock to private cram schools, and consequently, the gap between social classes will be further widened. Confronted with unstable reactions and public anxiety, the government abandoned the whole plan after all. On 20 March 2008, President Lee Myung Bak announced that ‘English immersion education is something we should not carry out and we cannot’, but is a matter for the distant future. Data collection The data come from a larger set of 11 interviews: seven with Korean mothers who send their children to an urban private elementary school, and four with mothers whose children attend a rural public elementary school. The rationale for selecting these sites was to recruit two groups of participants coming from distinct socioeconomic backgrounds. Ethnographic information regarding income, occupation, and educational attainment were collected to ensure that the participants consisted of two distinct groups, but in the analysis, such information was bracketed unless oriented to by the participants themselves. To give a brief description on each of the data collection sites, the private school (CCS) is located in a large city in Gyeonggi-do province. This school, which has around 1,000 students, is known for providing innovative contexts for learning, especially with their strong focus on English classes. English is a mandatory subject for the students starting from the first grade, and in recent years, the school has started to adopt English immersion classes for subjects such as art and music. The school is known for its high reputation in the community as well as its costly tuition. The public school (CPS), on the other hand, is located in the same province but in the deep countryside. Most of the residents in this area work as farmers, and the nearest city is about an hour and a half drive. The school has approximately 55 students in total and is on the verge of closing down. The only English classes in this school are optional extracurricular classes offered once a week, and teachers, most of whom have not majored in English education, take turns teaching these classes. Participants The focus of the sample analyses is on two participants: Junghee from the private school group and Hyunjoo from the public school group. The first interviewee, Hyunjoo, was in her early 30s, and she had three children that were attending fourth, third, and first grade of the same public school (CPS). Out of her three children, she reported that only her first child received one year of extra-curricular English instruction at her school. Both Hyunjoo and her husband were educated up to high school. Her husband was a farmer while she worked as a part-time secretary. She recorded in the background questionnaire that their monthly family income was around 1,500,000 won (≈ $1,250). Junghee was in her late 40s and had one daughter who was in sixth grade. Her daughter had been attending the private school (CCS) since she was in first grade, and she studied abroad in the Philippines for three months when she was in fourth grade. Junghee’s university major was in Korean literature and her husband was a law-school graduate. Both Junghee and her husband were employed at a nearby university and their family income amounted to approximately 4,000,000 won (≈ $3,300) per month. Interview and analysis The interview focus was on the participants’ perspectives regarding the English immersion policy proposal. As the policy was never implemented, interviews were an appropriate approach to data collection, investigating how Korean mothers talked about the perceived effects of the policy proposal. The interview questions touched on a range of topics (e.g. English learning histories, management of children’s English education, the policy proposal) and were designed to elicit narratives of past and present events wherein categories, if relevant, would be introduced by the participants. The interview questions themselves did not contain any categorial formulations. The analysis was guided by recent approaches that theorize interviews as a co-constructed social event rather than a mere information-gathering instrument ( Richards 2009 ). Interviewee contributions are viewed as interactional co-productions with the interviewer, and both the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of constructing versions of reality are examined in detail ( Holstein and Gubrium 2003 : 78). This perspective emphasizes a deeper analysis that goes beyond the conventional content or thematic extraction of interview data. By recognizing the situated accomplishment of the interview, this approach examines the construction and occasioning of categories within the reflexive unfolding of the research context, attending to how the interview method shapes the data and thus expanding ‘the scope, grounding, quality, and warrantability of the analysis’ ( Talmy 2010 : 33). Guided by this perspective, the following analysis presents interviewer questions as well as detailed transcripts of the interview talk in their full interactional context. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in a three-tier line following conversation analysis conventions ( Atkinson and Heritage 1984 , see Appendix) and the Yale system of romanization for Korean transcriptions ( Sohn 1999 ). SAMPLE ANALYSIS Hyunjoo: CPS mother First to be discussed are three excerpts selected from Hyunjoo’s interview. Immediately prior to Excerpt 1, the interviewer had brought up the topic of the policy. The interviewer determined whether the interviewee had heard about the policy proposal and asked follow-up questions to establish a similar, mutual understanding of the policy. It was within this common ground of knowledge that the interviewer embarked on the first interview question: ‘How did you feel when you first heard about the policy?’ Excerpt 1 ‘When I hear that story, my heart hurts very much’ Hyunjoo responds to the interviewer’s question with a proposition that equates the current English immersion policy with the educational practices of wuyelpan and wutungsayngpan (line 4). Although wuyelpan and wutunsayngpan is made self-explicative by both parties, they deserve some explanation to understand the talk that follows. Wuyelpan refers to the system of sorting out students into either the superior class or the inferior class, with the dividing line between the two groups usually being based on their test scores. Wutungsayngpan , which literally means class for outstanding students , is another way of framing the same practice. These two practices are often associated with negative connotations in the Korean society because they are considered as unfair practices that sustain educational inequality. Here, Hyunjoo mobilizes shared knowledge to create a preface for her account. On the premise that both interactants are aware of wuyelpan ’s negative contextual associations, such an assertion works to index her disfavoring stance 3 toward the policy. As Hyunjoo elaborates on having equated the English immersion policy with unfair educational policies, her account becomes replete with different categories of students. In lines 9–10, she evokes a generalized social scene involving the first student category, cheum-pwute yenge-lul tut-ko cala-n ai-tul (‘children who grew up listening to English since the beginning’), followed by another category, kuke alatut-nu-n myech myeng ai-tul (‘the few children that can understand [classes entirely in English]’) in line 13. The consistency rule ( Sacks 1972 ) marks these two categories as co-categorizations of the same collection, in which excelling and are being able to study in English-medium classes are introduced as category-bound features in line 14. Especially intriguing is her use of the temporal formulation cheum-pute (‘since the beginning’) in line 9. In contrast to since kindergarten or since they were three , the expression makes an extreme stretch in the time frame (‘the beginning’) that describes the category as being an exceptional group. The modifier myech (‘few’) can also be viewed in a similar light. By proposing the narrow scale of this category, Hyunjoo constructs these children, who have studied English from an early age and can function well in English-medium classes, as a rare minority out of the Korean student population. In contrast to this exceptional group, a counteractive category, nameci-tul (‘the rest’), is produced in line 15. In relation to the previous categories, the rest implies a reference to the other side of the wuyelpan category bifurcation— the lagging-behind students —and the word PANGchi (‘neglect’) is used to describe the unfortunate circumstance that this group will face. As this category-bound attribute lies in contrast with the other successful group of students, placing children in neglect not only becomes a publically accountable action, but it also portrays the situation as being unfair. The amplification and emphatic stress placed on the word PANGchi suggests the intensified state of Hyunjoo’s emotion to the extent that she expressively stages in line 18, that the perceived situation makes her heart hurt very much . An observation of this interview interaction reveals how Hyunjoo designs her response to accomplish a negative assessment of the English immersion policy. The asymmetrical categories she evokes resonate with the negative evaluative imports of wuyelpan as well as its inherent categorial package of students who excel or lag behind . In effect, Hyunjoo is able to portray a social world of unequal educational opportunities and English learning experiences, and the policy is seen as a potential agent of sustaining the system. In the next excerpt, the interviewer asks another question that elicits further opinions about the policy. Hyunjoo brings forth a more personalized approach as she talks about the immediate consequences the policy might have on her own child, and it is in this interactional context that Hyunjoo positions her own children alongside the bifurcation of student categories. Excerpt 2 ‘How much stress would they get’ In Excerpt 2, the question asks Hyunjoo to imagine what will happen to her children if the policy becomes the reality, and her immediate response in line 73 is that it will be hard . She continues to explain in line 76, that it will not only be hard for her children, but also for herself: ce-to nemu himtultey-nikka-yo (‘it will also be very hard for me too’). The standardized relational pair mother–child ( Sacks 1972 ) is appropriated to highlight that if it will be tough for the children, it will also be tough for herself as their mother. One observation to be made about this response is that it will be difficult is proposed three times between lines 73 and 77, and they are highly loaded with affect. The third production himtul-keyss-cyo (‘will be difficult’) in line 77 is when Hyunjoo’s affective stance reaches its climax. Here, the emotional intensity is upgraded through the word mullon (‘of course’), which by effect, normalizes her perceived hardships as the obvious, but leaves open what exactly these hardships entail. After this affectively loaded sequence, Hyunjoo continues to elaborate the expected difficulties of her children. She starts out by setting a future time frame in line 78 (‘if time goes by’) and suggests one or two years as an adjustment period for her children. However, in line 81, she projects a counteractive stance that as her children try to adjust, they would still be lagging behind, and from such process, they will be negatively affected by the experience of stress (lines 82–86). The words twichyeci-n (‘lag behind’) in line 82 and ttalaka-l (‘catch up’) in line 83 metaphorically index an image of a race in which her children are left behind. This statement further implies that there is also a group of students that will always be ahead, inferably referring to the category evoked in Excerpt 1: the children who received early English education. As she formulates this description in a rhetorical question with the use of the affective modal marker -keyss- , she sets up an affective frame that explicitly elicits sympathy from the listener. In Excerpt 2, Hyunjoo characterizes the English immersion policy as a harsh imposition on her children. The particulars she produces in this sequence—will be hard, lag behind, cannot catch up, receive stress—are features that she sees as being potential descriptions of her children under the policy. These attributes, as a result, are informative in terms of recognizing the categorization of her children. The features she attaches to them are hearable as being category-bound to the rest or the lagging behind class of wuyelpan from Excerpt 1, who she described as students placed in neglect . In this context, her children are also bound to be neglected under the English immersion policy, and to talk about it involves an intense affective stance. Such emotional intensity persists into the subsequent interaction, and in fact, it is even heightened as it is framed within a quoted performance of her child. Excerpt 3 ‘What am I? And what are they?’ Excerpt 3 was produced in immediate connection with the previous segment. What is apparent from the very first line is the sudden shift of footing ( Goffman 1974 ). In the form of represented speech ( Buttny and Cohen 2007 ), Hyunjoo starts to animate a quoted performance of her child, and it is in this fictional dialogue that Hyunjoo manages to deliver a personalized and even more affectively loaded portrayal of the policy’s impact on her children. In line 88, a category contrast is made between na (‘I’) and cyayney (‘them’), and it is delivered in a fictional scene where her children are asking a rhetorical question: ‘What am I? And what are they?’ Different sets of categorial membership become relevant here. Hyunjoo evokes the dichotomized categories of children who received early English education and the rest , in which her child, through the pronoun na , is identified with the latter group. The pronoun cyayney , on the other hand, distances her child from having incumbency with the students who excel, and they are constructed as the other . As the questioning dialogue continues, Hyunjoo brings up different factors that she associates with her children being placed into the category of the rest : hyengpyen (‘financial situation’) in line 90, pwumo (‘parents’) in line 91, and cwupyen (‘surroundings’) in line 93. These words are hearable as indexing the less privileged nature of her socioeconomic class. As she attributes her children’s presumed difficulties to her social background of having little income, her inadequacy in resources, and her residence in an isolated region, the lexical means of her account implicitly call on the other category, counteractively constructing the students who excel as having incumbency in a more privileged class than her and her children. In lines 94 and 96, cwupyen also leads to a locational contrast between yeki (‘here’) and tosi (‘the city’), and the city is constructed as the better place to live. These location categories are more than geographical terms in that they are formulated to accomplish a rhetorical purpose ( Schegloff 1972 ). The indexical properties of yeki establish the recognizability of the category that Hyunjoo’s child is a member of, while tosi refers to the other category or more specifically, the better other . As the dichotomized categories are extended from personal memberships to locational categorizations, the asymmetrical division between students who excel and the rest are discursively reinforced in her account. In this extract, Hyunjoo brings to life her children as characters of her represented speech. She animates what might be their inner-struggles from the policy, and the performance becomes a resource for casting her children into the category of the rest . By means of invoking her membership in a low socioeconomic class, her limited social or cultural resources as a parent, and her residence in a distant residential location as possible causes of her children’s inability to succeed in English-medium classes, she ascribes her children with a less privileged position in comparison with the children that live in the city. Highlighting the inequality of available resources between her children and the others, Hyunjoo achieves, through the double-voicing of her children, an assemblage of a blaming or complaining version of the consequences of the policy. Junghee: CCS mother The next two excerpts are from the interview with Junghee who is the mother that sends her child to a private school, CCS. Similar to Hyunjoo’s interview, her response begins with a negative comment about the policy. Excerpt 4 ‘He is out of his mind’ In Excerpt 4, the sequence is initiated with the interviewer’s inquiry of Junghee’s initial reactions towards the policy proposal (lines 1–2). As an immediate response, Junghee makes a negative evaluation of the president by saying ceycengsin-i ani-sin ke-ci (‘he is out of his mind’). Junghee engages in further accountability work in the second part of her response, and she does so through the invocation of two contrastive categories: children that attend CCS and children that are not like that, that cannot receive benefits . Junghee proposes that for the first category, cungang tanni-n ey tul (‘children that attend CCS’), the new policy will be good, and she accounts for this statement in line 9 by attaching they are good with academic vocabulary as a category-bound feature to this group. Academic vocabulary is a noteworthy lexical selection in that it not only indexes an advanced level of English, but it also alludes to a specific type of English competence that the new policy expects the students to acquire. Therefore, by saying that the CCS category is already competent with the required abilities of the policy, Junghee characterizes the group as being ahead in the race, and this description suffices to justify her previous assertion that the policy will be good for this particular category of children. A contrastive category of children, kulehci anhu-n, hyetayk-ul mos pat-nu-n ey-tul (‘children that are not like that, children who cannot get such opportunities’), is called on in lines 11 and 12. The reformulation in line 12 works to re-categorize the same members not by school type , but by the MCD opportunities . As a result, CCS students are hearable as having dual incumbency in the children with education opportunities category while non-CCS students, by contrast, are categorized as children without opportunities . Such re-categorization serves to foreground the asymmetry between the two student groups. The first category is privileged. Not only do they have the resources for attending CCS—an urban and costly private school—but they enjoy the set of benefits that CCS endows for them, such as having academic English competencies and being happy under the new policy. The second category, on the other hand, lacks both CCS membership and its educational benefits. In this extract, Junghee calls on a highly dichotomized version of categories to accomplish a negative assessment of the English immersion policy. Under the larger collection of children affected by the policy, she draws upon two categories that lie in an asymmetrical relationship with school-type and opportunities as its main devices. The policy is good for one group of children, while it is killing another. The social world she describes is highly segregated; abilities and privileges are divided according to different categorial memberships. In Excerpt 5, the interviewer proposes a hypothetical situation: What it will be like for your own child if the policy is implemented? As Junghee is asked to focus on her own daughter, she produces a list of attributes that resonate with the image of a successful student. Excerpt 5 ‘Oh well, there’s a word I don’t know’ Junghee’s immediate response involves a strong assertion saying that her child, Sulki, will be hayngpok (‘happy’). The Korean term hayngpok here is actually more than just happy but closer to the meaning of blissful . In other words, Junghee is characterizing her child as one that is blessed, fortunate, and one that has nothing else to wish for. In line 56, Junghee justifies this proposition by saying that her child is all equipped with that kind of ability , recognizing her child as being competent and fully ready for the possible challenges that the policy might bring. In addition, the specific time formulation right now also functions to highlight the current English proficiency of her child. The policy is in the future, but her child already has all the abilities right now . In this context, it is justifiable that Junghee links an attribute of not receiving stress to her child in line 59 even if she is placed in the hypothetical scenario of being instructed with academic vocabulary. The second account for her child’s presumed happiness is attributed to the kwuco (‘system’) of the school in line 60, making relevant her child’s membership as a CCS student. This claim is elaborated as she foregrounds, in line 62, her child having continuously used academic vocabulary since she was young. Here, Junghee recycles a previous category description made in Excerpt 4—children that attend CCS are competent in academic vocabulary—and adds further information to the duration (‘since an early age’) and manner (‘continuously’) of the CCS students’ CBAs. The insertion of the time formulation and adverbial detail serves to enhance the privileged nature of this category of children. While the policy might be imposing devastating measures for other children, students of CCS have already received academic English instruction for a long time. Junghee orients to Sulki’s school membership and the related category-bound predicates not only to account for her child’s advanced level of English but also her stress-free nature. Predicting how her child might react to unknown words, Junghee performs the quote oh well, there’s a word I don’t know , implying that new vocabulary items are unlikely to cause difficulties for her child. Such a performance characterizes her child as being familiar with English immersion classes, and thus, unlikely to undergo any stress. DISCUSSION In this sample MCA analysis, I examined how two Korean mothers, through categorization work, produce their stances towards the English immersion policy proposal. Both participants project a disfavoring stance towards the policy, and they set forward accusing remarks against the president for making ‘insane’ decisions and ‘neglecting’ children. In doing so, they recognize that different categories of children have unequal category-bound abilities, and their pervasive use of categories serve as explications and confirmations of the stereotypical image of inequality in education. Under the influences of the policy, they both see a dichotomized division in the students, and central to their accounts is the differential nature between the categories of the city and the isolated rest , CCS and non-CCS students , and children with and without opportunities . These particulars have the power of evoking a social world in which activities and privileges are clearly divided according to social, educational, and locational memberships. For both participants, social class and its resulting inequality are an achievement and a resource for projecting their negative assessment towards the policy proposal. Having constructed a world of educational inequity, Hyunjoo positions her children as possible victims of the policy, and through her categorization work and affectively loaded utterances, she presents it as an unfair, heartbreaking, and sympathy-eliciting situation. Her reasoning invokes financial situation , parents , and surroundings as category-bound predicates of her child’s underprivileged class membership. Furthermore, her children as defined by this membership belongs to the category of lagging behind students who will be neglected , stressed , burdened , and unable to keep up if the English immersion policy takes effect. Junghee’s interview also presents her awareness of the policy’s negative impact on a certain group of children, but she calls on her own child as an exception. Her child is constructed as a beneficiary member of CCS, one that has been continuously engaged with the category-bound opportunities of early English education, one that is already equipped with the necessary English skills, and one that is thereby happy , stress-free , and easily engaging with the new policy. I have argued that in social class research, the data have to be approached with sensitivity to the categories that are demonstrably relevant as class to the participants. If class really matters, how it matters and to whom it matters needs to be answered by means of rigorous attention to the data. In other words, it is not just the external factors such as recruitment criteria, occupation, or participants that determine the participants as members of an underprivileged or privileged social class. It is the participants themselves that observably prove such categories as being relevant to their practical reasoning and concerns. Through the sample analysis, I aimed to have shown how MCA can be a useful methodological tool that uncovers the participants’ own categories within their occasioned context of production. The point is to understand how categories like city and the isolated rest , CCS and non-CCS students , and children with and without opportunities are made relevant to the participants’ task of assessing the policy proposal, and how the commonsensical world of social class categorization is continually produced and accomplished throughout the interview talk. Such an analysis moves away from imposing on the data theoretically preformulated or methodologically contrived categories that stipulate class as an omnirelevant matter. Critics of MCA (and its ethnomethodological cohort, conversation analysis) have contended that such analyses can seem unnecessarily technical and ‘overly micro’ in the sense that they appear uninterested in addressing the larger issues of power, inequality, social justice, and hegemony (e.g. Billig 1999 ). Some critics are also skeptical of the political utility of a participant-oriented approach, suggesting that if we rely exclusively on the participants’ situated knowledge claims, social change cannot take place. However, what I aim to have demonstrated is that, first of all, MCA does not exclude politics as its critics have sought to argue. In this article, it is in fact this situated categorization analysis that sheds light on how the social issue of the English Divide is realized in discussions or evaluations of the policy proposal, and it sets up a solid empirical ground for further studies to discover concrete evidence in on how the South Korean English education policies are embedded within political power structures that ‘legitimize serious social stratifications and ways in which institutions and humans take note of inequalities’ ( Ramanathan 2005 : 90). A stratified world needs to be made visible before it can be subverted, and MCA is one tool that can illuminate the classed socio-political relevancies that are most important for interpreting the policy in connection with the mothers’ and their children’s lives. I do acknowledge, however, that the present interview study provides only one piece of the puzzle, and that fine-grained analyses of social difference as they are invoked in daily interactional practices may bring forth different, yet complementary, observations of the participants’ everyday negotiations of class. 4 All in all, MCA is not anti-political, nor is it anti-Marxist. It is a technical mentality geared toward inquiry that seeks to ground research claims in empirical exemplifications of the participants’ orientation to certain norms, ideologies, and versions of reality. By viewing class as an interpretive, categorial work in action, MCA provides readers with an analysis that is accountable to the data, powerfully substantiating the participants’ endogenous understandings of class, social structure, and stratification. The analysis provides a foundation, then, for discovering the political uses to which social class categories can be put, and for drawing the political implications that are most relevant to our participants’ interests. In this respect, I hope to have demonstrated that MCA as a powerful methodological tool can bolster the persuasiveness and credibility of social class research by providing a stronger empirical grounding for its analysis, leading into further contribution to studies on social justice and inequality. Acknowledgements The author thanks Gabriele Kasper, Richard Schmidt, Rue Burch, Steven Talmy, and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback on previous drafts of this article. All errors it may contain remain her own. Notes Josephine Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Education at Ewha Womans University. Informed by ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, her research interests center on classroom interaction, second language pedagogy, pragmatics, and qualitative research methods. Currently, she is undertaking projects in bilingual/EFL instructional classroom settings of South Korea. Author for correspondence : Josephine Lee, Department of English Education, Ewha Womans University. < leejosephine@ewha.ac.kr > 1 In this article, the term ‘lived experiences’ is used in an ethnomethodological sense to refer to occasioned versions of reality that are made available and recognizable through social interaction ( Garfinkel 1967) . 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Methodological Applications of Membership Categorization Analysis for Social Class Research

Applied Linguistics , Volume Advance Article – Jul 28, 2016

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Abstract

Abstract Since Block’s (2012) article, ‘Class and SLA: Making connections’, social class has received increased attention in applied linguistics research. This growing scholarship, however, yet is in need of a more robust theorization and rigorous methodological framework for investigating class-based research inquiries. This article thereby proposes Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) as one possible approach for examining the participants’ endogenous makings of social class in situ . With interview excerpts of mothers discussing an English immersion policy proposal in South Korea, I will demonstrate how MCA can produce an analysis that is empirically grounded in the participants’ own categorial knowledge and commonsense reasoning about stratified social structure. Such an approach respecifies social class from being a rigid, abstract, and predetermined construct to a socially constructed category and accomplishment that is made relevant in the participants’ methods of practical action. INTRODUCTION The past decade in applied linguistics has witnessed a great deal of scholarship on power and inequality between the haves and the have-nots, both within and across different countries ( Phillipson 2009 ). While much of this research discusses gender and ethnicity as recognizable and redistributing constructs of social stratification ( Kubota and Lin 2009 ), relatively little has dealt with social class. David Block (2014) called this absence of discussion ‘class erasure’ and contended that ‘there is a need to introduce social class as a key construct’ in current and future research (p. 70). Due to this call, there has been a recent growth of class-based scholarship in applied linguistics as in Block’s monograph Social Class in Applied Linguistics and Vandrick’s (2014) special issue in the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education . At this initial stage, research on class and inequity in the field needs not just increased quantity but, more importantly, a robust theorization of social class and a rigorous methodological framework for carrying out class-based research agendas ( Block 2015 ; Kanno 2014 ). The theoretical, methodological, and analytical approaches of social class research are often opaque and unaccounted for, and there is still an overwhelming tendency to approach class as a rigid and objective construct. These are substantial issues, inviting consideration of the current definitions and approaches to social class. This article attempts to open the discussion by briefly reviewing the theoretical conceptualizations and methodological issues in class-based applied linguistics research. Then, I will propose Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) as a profitable, emic method for analyzing class in terms of participants’ own local categories and practical orientations rather than taking it for granted as a predetermined label or identity. The methodological discussion will be grounded in sample analyses of interview excerpts wherein two mothers are discussing an English immersion policy proposal in South Korea. APPROACHES TO SOCIAL CLASS IN APPLIED LINGUISTICS A starting point for discussing social class is to define what exactly is meant by class. Derived from the classic theorizations of Karl Marx (1859/1904 , 1867/1976 ) and Max Weber (1922/1978 ), more contemporary conceptualizations of class have been developed by Raymond Williams (1977) , Pierre Bourdieu (1984) , and Mike Savage (2000) . According to Block (2015 : 3), the common basis of these views is the distinction between class in itself and class for itself . The former refers to class as lived experiences in relation to structural conditions (e.g. workplace conditions, life opportunities, financial circumstances), and the latter refers to ‘class consciousness’ or ‘meta-level’ ideologies, images, and discourses that people hold about different social groups ( Wright 2005 ; Rampton 2006 ). This notion preserves the Marxian foundation of foregrounding the material and economic accounts of social life, while also addressing the Weberian interest in sociocultural aspects of class that go beyond the traditional indexes of income, occupation, and education. Combining these classic ideas with the influential work of Bourdieu (1984 , 1991 ), recent inquiries on class include analyses that are not limited to the relationship between industrial and community relations, but also extend to places of residence, social networking, spatial relations, leisure, and consumption behaviors. As a result, now widely accepted in most sociological research is a conceptualization that views class as (i) a multidimensional construct; (ii) a social and cultural category through which distinctive practices emerge and influence attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of class members; and (iii) a lived experience that captures how the participants being researched actually act and think in regards to their position in society ( Savage et al. 2010 ; Block 2014 ; Vandrick 2014 ). In applied linguistics, current research on social class, despite its surprising scarcity ( Block 2012 , 2014 , 2015 ), has addressed the core sociological topics of class consciousness, the relationship between class and structural conditions, and identities regarding language learning and use. First, several studies have employed statistical measures to investigate the correlation between class position and access to language or language varieties. The earliest work traces back to that of William Labov (1966) , who explored statistically verifiable links between social positions and speech varieties. The Labovian variationists repeatedly showed that in a stratified society, people can be categorized into working class or upper middle class according to the individual’s speech repertoire, as in patterns of accent and style variation ( Trudgill 1974 ; Milroy and Milroy 1978 ). More recent work includes that of Butler (2013) and Liu (2012) , who used large-scale quantitative data to show that in the Chinese context, parental beliefs, and behaviors toward English education are different across social classes, and can thereby influence children’s language learning outcomes and opportunities. These studies reported that social class is a determining factor in students’ language learning processes (see also e.g. Zou and Zhang 2011 ; Kanno and Cromley 2013 ), but share a crucial shortcoming in that ‘they follow fairly limited frameworks derived from questionnaire-based sociological work, with the listing of the general indicators income, occupation, and educational level sufficing as an explanation’ ( Block 2014 : 93). Social class cannot be operationalized as a rigid, stable variable, and inequality is much more than a statistical difference. Moreover, preconceived categories of social class, no matter how many are considered, are the analyst’s categories and not the participants’. An analysis that relies on a few pregiven categories is reductionist and ‘crudely schematic’ ( Piketty 2014 : 252). It also fails to capture the lived reality of the participants in terms of local descriptions and categories that are their own—‘how people perceive themselves and live their lives’ ( Pennycook 2015 : 270). Another strand of social class research in applied linguistics has taken qualitative approaches, viewing class as an identity inscription that is related to language learning, use, and development. For instance, Bonny Norton’s (2000) ethnographic work on immigrant women in Canada discussed class as a mediating factor that determined their access to English-speaking environments. Block (2007) focused on a Colombian man living in the UK whose ‘middle class habitus’ served to distance him from his working class colleagues. Park and Abelmann (2004) and Shin (2014) produced class-based descriptions of ‘working-class’ and ‘middle-class’ mothers and their positions in the stratified structure of English education in Korea. While these studies have contributed to our understanding of social class and language learning, with Bourdieu’s ideas largely framing the research, one common weakness is that the data are often over-quoted and under-analyzed, and the researcher’s narratives or summaries are used as substitutes for what the participants said (see also e.g. Vandrick 2011 ; López-Gopar and Sughrua 2014 ). Such an approach not only overlooks the discursive details of the original ( Antaki et al. 2003 ), but obscures the participants’ lived experiences and social categories in favor of an abstract and analyst-driven description of social class ( Billig 1997 ; Fitzgerald and Housley 2015 ). Furthermore, many researchers tend to adopt Bourdieu’s as the default approach, but macro-interpretations that impose social structure on the participants need to be empirically grounded in the data ( Blommaert and Makoe 2011 : 13). Importing exogenous social theories into class-based research entails using the predetermined categories of the theories, with the resulting analysis ‘being to some degree driven by the theory rather than the data, regardless of how well the theory actually fits the data, and even when the theory does not fit at all’ ( Hauser 2011 : 351). Instead of putting the discursive complexity and socially engaged nature of the data to close analysis, this approach can risk committing a type of class erasure that misses what the relevancies are for the participants ( Bramlett 2015 : 216). Lastly, the unproblematized use of labels such as ‘middle class habitus’ and ‘working-class mother’ can impose a class reading that is not warranted by the data. The danger of readily subscribing to these labels is not only that the identity ascriptions may not be relevant to the participants’ concerns, but that doing so may also preclude the possibility of discovering other potential relevancies ( Benwell and Stokoe 2006 : 37). In this article, therefore, I take a strictly data-driven approach to investigating class as the participants’ own social and cultural categories that are done, managed, achieved, and negotiated by the participants in situ . This approach does not substantiate class as an already known entity that is independent of the members’ practices and social understandings. Rather, class in itself becomes a topic of analytic inquiry—a category that is oriented to in the participants’ methods of practical reasoning and is made relevant by members as a local achievement in a particular context ( Berard 2006 : 238). Such a theoretical and analytic approach does not deny the existence of a material world as if ‘there is nothing beyond discourse’ ( Billig 1999 : 122) or as if any orientation to social class is coming from ‘nowhere’ ( Speer 2005 : 126). In fact, why people orient in their talk to certain social categories and their associated features, attributes, and predicates is because of a shared interpretative apparatus, or ‘common sense’ that is constituted by and constitutive of social structure ( Garfinkel 1967 ). The challenge of identifying material and social structures, however, is that they are abstract entities that are only inferable through the observable phenomena they generate, and we, because of our restricted analytic lens, are limited in our ability to make indisputable claims about ‘pure’ reality. In this regard, the methodological rigor of observing category work is that it is grounded in practices that are analytically tractable. The study of categories situates the investigation of social class within the participants’ sense-making practices, and it enables a technical analysis of the participants’ commonsense understanding of social organizations in ‘all their individual and contextual particularity’ ( Tranekjær 2015 : 11). This principle aligns with the well-established identity research in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis ( Antaki 2013 ), as well as similar developments in discursive psychology ( Wetherell 2007 ; Prior 2015 ), linguistic ethnography ( Rampton et al. 2014 ), cultural studies ( Hall and Du Gay 1996 ), and many other traditions of qualitative inquiry. In the next section, I will describe the theoretical principles of MCA and propose it as a methodological framework for anchoring class analyses in the members’ own understanding of social structure. MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIZATION ANALYSIS The primary methodology used in this study draws on MCA, an analytical approach rooted in ethnomethodology. Sacks’ (1972) interest was in the emic categories that were produced by the participants themselves as a critique to sociological research that was more analyst-driven. Baker (1997) upheld MCA as a powerful tool for analyzing the production of identities and social relationships, because it draws attention to how members of a society generate various categories to describe people in their talk and make sense of particular events ( Hester and Eglin 2003 ; Silverman 1998 ). In MCA, emphasis is placed on how membership categories are assembled in situ as a participants’ resource in achieving identities, realities, and social order ( Fitzgerald and Housley 2015 : 5). Such a conceptualization shifts focus away from macro-abstraction and instead enables the researcher to gain access to how members arrange common sense knowledge, versions of social reality, and moral assumptions in their talk, actions, and interactional practices. The basic principles of MCA are illustrated in Sacks’ (1974) classic example ‘The baby cried. The mommy picked it up’. We hear links between mommy and baby , and specifically in terms of the mommy being the mommy of that baby . According to Sacks, the main apparatus that allows us to associate the category of mommy with baby is the Membership Categorization Device (MCD) family , which explains how categories can be hearable as belonging together. Of course, Sacks argued that categories are also ‘inference-rich’ in that they are linked to specific category-bound activities (CBAs) that spell out the normative expectations about a mommy’s or baby’s behavior. For Sacks, categories, MCDs, and CBAs encapsulate an array of collections and shared commonsense knowledge that are part of the members’ ordinary methods of practical sense making. How does all of this relate to class? In the previous section, I reviewed the conceptualization of social class in current sociological research as (i) a multidimensional construct, (ii) a social and cultural category through which distinctive practices of the participants emerge, and (iii) a lived experience1 that captures how the participants act and think in regards to their position in society. MCA takes the similar view that all identities (e.g. ethnic, gender, class) are dynamic, rather than fixed, and in investigating these contingent identities, categories produced in the participants’ activities are the core machinery for gaining access to the members’ commonsensical frameworks of social structure. Although class has not become a substantial focus in MCA research quite yet, scholars have been interested in applying MCA to race and gender identity research. For instance, MCA studies have shown that ethnic categories are made relevant among speakers by means of explicit category naming and CBAs (e.g. Day 1998 ; Hansen 2005 ; Higgins 2007 ). Another focus has been on feminism and gender-implicative categories (e.g. Eglin and Hester 1999 ; Saft and Ohara 2003 ; Speer and Stokoe 2011 ). Stokoe (2010) examined how, in police interrogations, male suspects denied accusations of having assaulted women. Stokoe argued that the men’s production of category-based denials (e.g. ‘I’m not gonna hit a lady’) invoke the category pairs of man–woman and perpetrator–victim , indexing a naturalized discourse of male dominance and power. By locating gender within the participants’ categories, these studies pinpoint moments in interaction when the members demonstrate their orientation to feminist concerns such as sexism, heteronormativity, and gender trouble. Previous MCA research along these lines testifies to its potential for dealing with politically motivated, critical agendas in power, ideology, and social reproduction (e.g. Berard 2005 ; Talmy 2009 ). Expanding upon this body of research, the practical utility of MCA approaches has also been realized in applied linguistics to address various social, political, and cultural issues related to language education (e.g. Mondada 2004 ; Mazeland and Berenst 2006 ; Tranekjær 2015 ). In this article, I will employ these MCA notions to show how the participants proffer categorization work, that is, aligning and disassociating with membership categories, as part of their commonsensical framework for understanding social class. My aim is to show that class is not simply invoked as a preexisting entity but actively constituted in the participants their categorial knowledge and commonsense practical reasoning about stratified social structure. The data for the sample analyses come from a set of research interviews in which two mothers provided their assessments of an English immersion policy in South Korea. I will first explain the context of the proposal, the data collection, participants, and the interview method. In the analyses, attention will be given to the discursive positions the mothers create for themselves and for their children as they assign self and other categories in the unfolding interview interaction. CONTEXT The South Korean immersion policy proposal On 23 January 2008, the presidential transition committee of South Korea unveiled their ‘English Education Roadmap’, a proposal to reform the current teaching system and improve Koreans’ English proficiency. This $4.25 billion project was to be completed in the following five years, primarily with the motive of increasing national competitiveness, reducing household spending on private education, and promoting educational equality in Korean society. Originally, the committee had planned for all public schools to teach non-English subjects in English starting from 2010. Within 5 days of the initial proposal, however, the committee withdrew their initial plan after critics severely challenged its feasibility, citing the massive budget requirement and lack of proficient teachers. Faced with strong public backlash, the committee revised their plan and proposed that only English classes be taught in English. They also postponed the policy’s implementation until 2012 or 2013. Nevertheless, unintended consequences continued to be produced from the proposal that further exacerbated public opposition. There was a rush of students to private language schools to prepare for the new system, with students living in remote areas temporarily moving to bigger cities to attend private English institutes. Other critiques centered on the impracticality of the policy. Some in the media claimed that the proficiency of teachers and the students was too low for the successful implementation of English-medium classes. Another strong criticism was that the policy would exacerbate the English Divide. 2 It was feared that the more English in public schools is emphasized, the more that people who can afford it will flock to private cram schools, and consequently, the gap between social classes will be further widened. Confronted with unstable reactions and public anxiety, the government abandoned the whole plan after all. On 20 March 2008, President Lee Myung Bak announced that ‘English immersion education is something we should not carry out and we cannot’, but is a matter for the distant future. Data collection The data come from a larger set of 11 interviews: seven with Korean mothers who send their children to an urban private elementary school, and four with mothers whose children attend a rural public elementary school. The rationale for selecting these sites was to recruit two groups of participants coming from distinct socioeconomic backgrounds. Ethnographic information regarding income, occupation, and educational attainment were collected to ensure that the participants consisted of two distinct groups, but in the analysis, such information was bracketed unless oriented to by the participants themselves. To give a brief description on each of the data collection sites, the private school (CCS) is located in a large city in Gyeonggi-do province. This school, which has around 1,000 students, is known for providing innovative contexts for learning, especially with their strong focus on English classes. English is a mandatory subject for the students starting from the first grade, and in recent years, the school has started to adopt English immersion classes for subjects such as art and music. The school is known for its high reputation in the community as well as its costly tuition. The public school (CPS), on the other hand, is located in the same province but in the deep countryside. Most of the residents in this area work as farmers, and the nearest city is about an hour and a half drive. The school has approximately 55 students in total and is on the verge of closing down. The only English classes in this school are optional extracurricular classes offered once a week, and teachers, most of whom have not majored in English education, take turns teaching these classes. Participants The focus of the sample analyses is on two participants: Junghee from the private school group and Hyunjoo from the public school group. The first interviewee, Hyunjoo, was in her early 30s, and she had three children that were attending fourth, third, and first grade of the same public school (CPS). Out of her three children, she reported that only her first child received one year of extra-curricular English instruction at her school. Both Hyunjoo and her husband were educated up to high school. Her husband was a farmer while she worked as a part-time secretary. She recorded in the background questionnaire that their monthly family income was around 1,500,000 won (≈ $1,250). Junghee was in her late 40s and had one daughter who was in sixth grade. Her daughter had been attending the private school (CCS) since she was in first grade, and she studied abroad in the Philippines for three months when she was in fourth grade. Junghee’s university major was in Korean literature and her husband was a law-school graduate. Both Junghee and her husband were employed at a nearby university and their family income amounted to approximately 4,000,000 won (≈ $3,300) per month. Interview and analysis The interview focus was on the participants’ perspectives regarding the English immersion policy proposal. As the policy was never implemented, interviews were an appropriate approach to data collection, investigating how Korean mothers talked about the perceived effects of the policy proposal. The interview questions touched on a range of topics (e.g. English learning histories, management of children’s English education, the policy proposal) and were designed to elicit narratives of past and present events wherein categories, if relevant, would be introduced by the participants. The interview questions themselves did not contain any categorial formulations. The analysis was guided by recent approaches that theorize interviews as a co-constructed social event rather than a mere information-gathering instrument ( Richards 2009 ). Interviewee contributions are viewed as interactional co-productions with the interviewer, and both the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of constructing versions of reality are examined in detail ( Holstein and Gubrium 2003 : 78). This perspective emphasizes a deeper analysis that goes beyond the conventional content or thematic extraction of interview data. By recognizing the situated accomplishment of the interview, this approach examines the construction and occasioning of categories within the reflexive unfolding of the research context, attending to how the interview method shapes the data and thus expanding ‘the scope, grounding, quality, and warrantability of the analysis’ ( Talmy 2010 : 33). Guided by this perspective, the following analysis presents interviewer questions as well as detailed transcripts of the interview talk in their full interactional context. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in a three-tier line following conversation analysis conventions ( Atkinson and Heritage 1984 , see Appendix) and the Yale system of romanization for Korean transcriptions ( Sohn 1999 ). SAMPLE ANALYSIS Hyunjoo: CPS mother First to be discussed are three excerpts selected from Hyunjoo’s interview. Immediately prior to Excerpt 1, the interviewer had brought up the topic of the policy. The interviewer determined whether the interviewee had heard about the policy proposal and asked follow-up questions to establish a similar, mutual understanding of the policy. It was within this common ground of knowledge that the interviewer embarked on the first interview question: ‘How did you feel when you first heard about the policy?’ Excerpt 1 ‘When I hear that story, my heart hurts very much’ Hyunjoo responds to the interviewer’s question with a proposition that equates the current English immersion policy with the educational practices of wuyelpan and wutungsayngpan (line 4). Although wuyelpan and wutunsayngpan is made self-explicative by both parties, they deserve some explanation to understand the talk that follows. Wuyelpan refers to the system of sorting out students into either the superior class or the inferior class, with the dividing line between the two groups usually being based on their test scores. Wutungsayngpan , which literally means class for outstanding students , is another way of framing the same practice. These two practices are often associated with negative connotations in the Korean society because they are considered as unfair practices that sustain educational inequality. Here, Hyunjoo mobilizes shared knowledge to create a preface for her account. On the premise that both interactants are aware of wuyelpan ’s negative contextual associations, such an assertion works to index her disfavoring stance 3 toward the policy. As Hyunjoo elaborates on having equated the English immersion policy with unfair educational policies, her account becomes replete with different categories of students. In lines 9–10, she evokes a generalized social scene involving the first student category, cheum-pwute yenge-lul tut-ko cala-n ai-tul (‘children who grew up listening to English since the beginning’), followed by another category, kuke alatut-nu-n myech myeng ai-tul (‘the few children that can understand [classes entirely in English]’) in line 13. The consistency rule ( Sacks 1972 ) marks these two categories as co-categorizations of the same collection, in which excelling and are being able to study in English-medium classes are introduced as category-bound features in line 14. Especially intriguing is her use of the temporal formulation cheum-pute (‘since the beginning’) in line 9. In contrast to since kindergarten or since they were three , the expression makes an extreme stretch in the time frame (‘the beginning’) that describes the category as being an exceptional group. The modifier myech (‘few’) can also be viewed in a similar light. By proposing the narrow scale of this category, Hyunjoo constructs these children, who have studied English from an early age and can function well in English-medium classes, as a rare minority out of the Korean student population. In contrast to this exceptional group, a counteractive category, nameci-tul (‘the rest’), is produced in line 15. In relation to the previous categories, the rest implies a reference to the other side of the wuyelpan category bifurcation— the lagging-behind students —and the word PANGchi (‘neglect’) is used to describe the unfortunate circumstance that this group will face. As this category-bound attribute lies in contrast with the other successful group of students, placing children in neglect not only becomes a publically accountable action, but it also portrays the situation as being unfair. The amplification and emphatic stress placed on the word PANGchi suggests the intensified state of Hyunjoo’s emotion to the extent that she expressively stages in line 18, that the perceived situation makes her heart hurt very much . An observation of this interview interaction reveals how Hyunjoo designs her response to accomplish a negative assessment of the English immersion policy. The asymmetrical categories she evokes resonate with the negative evaluative imports of wuyelpan as well as its inherent categorial package of students who excel or lag behind . In effect, Hyunjoo is able to portray a social world of unequal educational opportunities and English learning experiences, and the policy is seen as a potential agent of sustaining the system. In the next excerpt, the interviewer asks another question that elicits further opinions about the policy. Hyunjoo brings forth a more personalized approach as she talks about the immediate consequences the policy might have on her own child, and it is in this interactional context that Hyunjoo positions her own children alongside the bifurcation of student categories. Excerpt 2 ‘How much stress would they get’ In Excerpt 2, the question asks Hyunjoo to imagine what will happen to her children if the policy becomes the reality, and her immediate response in line 73 is that it will be hard . She continues to explain in line 76, that it will not only be hard for her children, but also for herself: ce-to nemu himtultey-nikka-yo (‘it will also be very hard for me too’). The standardized relational pair mother–child ( Sacks 1972 ) is appropriated to highlight that if it will be tough for the children, it will also be tough for herself as their mother. One observation to be made about this response is that it will be difficult is proposed three times between lines 73 and 77, and they are highly loaded with affect. The third production himtul-keyss-cyo (‘will be difficult’) in line 77 is when Hyunjoo’s affective stance reaches its climax. Here, the emotional intensity is upgraded through the word mullon (‘of course’), which by effect, normalizes her perceived hardships as the obvious, but leaves open what exactly these hardships entail. After this affectively loaded sequence, Hyunjoo continues to elaborate the expected difficulties of her children. She starts out by setting a future time frame in line 78 (‘if time goes by’) and suggests one or two years as an adjustment period for her children. However, in line 81, she projects a counteractive stance that as her children try to adjust, they would still be lagging behind, and from such process, they will be negatively affected by the experience of stress (lines 82–86). The words twichyeci-n (‘lag behind’) in line 82 and ttalaka-l (‘catch up’) in line 83 metaphorically index an image of a race in which her children are left behind. This statement further implies that there is also a group of students that will always be ahead, inferably referring to the category evoked in Excerpt 1: the children who received early English education. As she formulates this description in a rhetorical question with the use of the affective modal marker -keyss- , she sets up an affective frame that explicitly elicits sympathy from the listener. In Excerpt 2, Hyunjoo characterizes the English immersion policy as a harsh imposition on her children. The particulars she produces in this sequence—will be hard, lag behind, cannot catch up, receive stress—are features that she sees as being potential descriptions of her children under the policy. These attributes, as a result, are informative in terms of recognizing the categorization of her children. The features she attaches to them are hearable as being category-bound to the rest or the lagging behind class of wuyelpan from Excerpt 1, who she described as students placed in neglect . In this context, her children are also bound to be neglected under the English immersion policy, and to talk about it involves an intense affective stance. Such emotional intensity persists into the subsequent interaction, and in fact, it is even heightened as it is framed within a quoted performance of her child. Excerpt 3 ‘What am I? And what are they?’ Excerpt 3 was produced in immediate connection with the previous segment. What is apparent from the very first line is the sudden shift of footing ( Goffman 1974 ). In the form of represented speech ( Buttny and Cohen 2007 ), Hyunjoo starts to animate a quoted performance of her child, and it is in this fictional dialogue that Hyunjoo manages to deliver a personalized and even more affectively loaded portrayal of the policy’s impact on her children. In line 88, a category contrast is made between na (‘I’) and cyayney (‘them’), and it is delivered in a fictional scene where her children are asking a rhetorical question: ‘What am I? And what are they?’ Different sets of categorial membership become relevant here. Hyunjoo evokes the dichotomized categories of children who received early English education and the rest , in which her child, through the pronoun na , is identified with the latter group. The pronoun cyayney , on the other hand, distances her child from having incumbency with the students who excel, and they are constructed as the other . As the questioning dialogue continues, Hyunjoo brings up different factors that she associates with her children being placed into the category of the rest : hyengpyen (‘financial situation’) in line 90, pwumo (‘parents’) in line 91, and cwupyen (‘surroundings’) in line 93. These words are hearable as indexing the less privileged nature of her socioeconomic class. As she attributes her children’s presumed difficulties to her social background of having little income, her inadequacy in resources, and her residence in an isolated region, the lexical means of her account implicitly call on the other category, counteractively constructing the students who excel as having incumbency in a more privileged class than her and her children. In lines 94 and 96, cwupyen also leads to a locational contrast between yeki (‘here’) and tosi (‘the city’), and the city is constructed as the better place to live. These location categories are more than geographical terms in that they are formulated to accomplish a rhetorical purpose ( Schegloff 1972 ). The indexical properties of yeki establish the recognizability of the category that Hyunjoo’s child is a member of, while tosi refers to the other category or more specifically, the better other . As the dichotomized categories are extended from personal memberships to locational categorizations, the asymmetrical division between students who excel and the rest are discursively reinforced in her account. In this extract, Hyunjoo brings to life her children as characters of her represented speech. She animates what might be their inner-struggles from the policy, and the performance becomes a resource for casting her children into the category of the rest . By means of invoking her membership in a low socioeconomic class, her limited social or cultural resources as a parent, and her residence in a distant residential location as possible causes of her children’s inability to succeed in English-medium classes, she ascribes her children with a less privileged position in comparison with the children that live in the city. Highlighting the inequality of available resources between her children and the others, Hyunjoo achieves, through the double-voicing of her children, an assemblage of a blaming or complaining version of the consequences of the policy. Junghee: CCS mother The next two excerpts are from the interview with Junghee who is the mother that sends her child to a private school, CCS. Similar to Hyunjoo’s interview, her response begins with a negative comment about the policy. Excerpt 4 ‘He is out of his mind’ In Excerpt 4, the sequence is initiated with the interviewer’s inquiry of Junghee’s initial reactions towards the policy proposal (lines 1–2). As an immediate response, Junghee makes a negative evaluation of the president by saying ceycengsin-i ani-sin ke-ci (‘he is out of his mind’). Junghee engages in further accountability work in the second part of her response, and she does so through the invocation of two contrastive categories: children that attend CCS and children that are not like that, that cannot receive benefits . Junghee proposes that for the first category, cungang tanni-n ey tul (‘children that attend CCS’), the new policy will be good, and she accounts for this statement in line 9 by attaching they are good with academic vocabulary as a category-bound feature to this group. Academic vocabulary is a noteworthy lexical selection in that it not only indexes an advanced level of English, but it also alludes to a specific type of English competence that the new policy expects the students to acquire. Therefore, by saying that the CCS category is already competent with the required abilities of the policy, Junghee characterizes the group as being ahead in the race, and this description suffices to justify her previous assertion that the policy will be good for this particular category of children. A contrastive category of children, kulehci anhu-n, hyetayk-ul mos pat-nu-n ey-tul (‘children that are not like that, children who cannot get such opportunities’), is called on in lines 11 and 12. The reformulation in line 12 works to re-categorize the same members not by school type , but by the MCD opportunities . As a result, CCS students are hearable as having dual incumbency in the children with education opportunities category while non-CCS students, by contrast, are categorized as children without opportunities . Such re-categorization serves to foreground the asymmetry between the two student groups. The first category is privileged. Not only do they have the resources for attending CCS—an urban and costly private school—but they enjoy the set of benefits that CCS endows for them, such as having academic English competencies and being happy under the new policy. The second category, on the other hand, lacks both CCS membership and its educational benefits. In this extract, Junghee calls on a highly dichotomized version of categories to accomplish a negative assessment of the English immersion policy. Under the larger collection of children affected by the policy, she draws upon two categories that lie in an asymmetrical relationship with school-type and opportunities as its main devices. The policy is good for one group of children, while it is killing another. The social world she describes is highly segregated; abilities and privileges are divided according to different categorial memberships. In Excerpt 5, the interviewer proposes a hypothetical situation: What it will be like for your own child if the policy is implemented? As Junghee is asked to focus on her own daughter, she produces a list of attributes that resonate with the image of a successful student. Excerpt 5 ‘Oh well, there’s a word I don’t know’ Junghee’s immediate response involves a strong assertion saying that her child, Sulki, will be hayngpok (‘happy’). The Korean term hayngpok here is actually more than just happy but closer to the meaning of blissful . In other words, Junghee is characterizing her child as one that is blessed, fortunate, and one that has nothing else to wish for. In line 56, Junghee justifies this proposition by saying that her child is all equipped with that kind of ability , recognizing her child as being competent and fully ready for the possible challenges that the policy might bring. In addition, the specific time formulation right now also functions to highlight the current English proficiency of her child. The policy is in the future, but her child already has all the abilities right now . In this context, it is justifiable that Junghee links an attribute of not receiving stress to her child in line 59 even if she is placed in the hypothetical scenario of being instructed with academic vocabulary. The second account for her child’s presumed happiness is attributed to the kwuco (‘system’) of the school in line 60, making relevant her child’s membership as a CCS student. This claim is elaborated as she foregrounds, in line 62, her child having continuously used academic vocabulary since she was young. Here, Junghee recycles a previous category description made in Excerpt 4—children that attend CCS are competent in academic vocabulary—and adds further information to the duration (‘since an early age’) and manner (‘continuously’) of the CCS students’ CBAs. The insertion of the time formulation and adverbial detail serves to enhance the privileged nature of this category of children. While the policy might be imposing devastating measures for other children, students of CCS have already received academic English instruction for a long time. Junghee orients to Sulki’s school membership and the related category-bound predicates not only to account for her child’s advanced level of English but also her stress-free nature. Predicting how her child might react to unknown words, Junghee performs the quote oh well, there’s a word I don’t know , implying that new vocabulary items are unlikely to cause difficulties for her child. Such a performance characterizes her child as being familiar with English immersion classes, and thus, unlikely to undergo any stress. DISCUSSION In this sample MCA analysis, I examined how two Korean mothers, through categorization work, produce their stances towards the English immersion policy proposal. Both participants project a disfavoring stance towards the policy, and they set forward accusing remarks against the president for making ‘insane’ decisions and ‘neglecting’ children. In doing so, they recognize that different categories of children have unequal category-bound abilities, and their pervasive use of categories serve as explications and confirmations of the stereotypical image of inequality in education. Under the influences of the policy, they both see a dichotomized division in the students, and central to their accounts is the differential nature between the categories of the city and the isolated rest , CCS and non-CCS students , and children with and without opportunities . These particulars have the power of evoking a social world in which activities and privileges are clearly divided according to social, educational, and locational memberships. For both participants, social class and its resulting inequality are an achievement and a resource for projecting their negative assessment towards the policy proposal. Having constructed a world of educational inequity, Hyunjoo positions her children as possible victims of the policy, and through her categorization work and affectively loaded utterances, she presents it as an unfair, heartbreaking, and sympathy-eliciting situation. Her reasoning invokes financial situation , parents , and surroundings as category-bound predicates of her child’s underprivileged class membership. Furthermore, her children as defined by this membership belongs to the category of lagging behind students who will be neglected , stressed , burdened , and unable to keep up if the English immersion policy takes effect. Junghee’s interview also presents her awareness of the policy’s negative impact on a certain group of children, but she calls on her own child as an exception. Her child is constructed as a beneficiary member of CCS, one that has been continuously engaged with the category-bound opportunities of early English education, one that is already equipped with the necessary English skills, and one that is thereby happy , stress-free , and easily engaging with the new policy. I have argued that in social class research, the data have to be approached with sensitivity to the categories that are demonstrably relevant as class to the participants. If class really matters, how it matters and to whom it matters needs to be answered by means of rigorous attention to the data. In other words, it is not just the external factors such as recruitment criteria, occupation, or participants that determine the participants as members of an underprivileged or privileged social class. It is the participants themselves that observably prove such categories as being relevant to their practical reasoning and concerns. Through the sample analysis, I aimed to have shown how MCA can be a useful methodological tool that uncovers the participants’ own categories within their occasioned context of production. The point is to understand how categories like city and the isolated rest , CCS and non-CCS students , and children with and without opportunities are made relevant to the participants’ task of assessing the policy proposal, and how the commonsensical world of social class categorization is continually produced and accomplished throughout the interview talk. Such an analysis moves away from imposing on the data theoretically preformulated or methodologically contrived categories that stipulate class as an omnirelevant matter. Critics of MCA (and its ethnomethodological cohort, conversation analysis) have contended that such analyses can seem unnecessarily technical and ‘overly micro’ in the sense that they appear uninterested in addressing the larger issues of power, inequality, social justice, and hegemony (e.g. Billig 1999 ). Some critics are also skeptical of the political utility of a participant-oriented approach, suggesting that if we rely exclusively on the participants’ situated knowledge claims, social change cannot take place. However, what I aim to have demonstrated is that, first of all, MCA does not exclude politics as its critics have sought to argue. In this article, it is in fact this situated categorization analysis that sheds light on how the social issue of the English Divide is realized in discussions or evaluations of the policy proposal, and it sets up a solid empirical ground for further studies to discover concrete evidence in on how the South Korean English education policies are embedded within political power structures that ‘legitimize serious social stratifications and ways in which institutions and humans take note of inequalities’ ( Ramanathan 2005 : 90). A stratified world needs to be made visible before it can be subverted, and MCA is one tool that can illuminate the classed socio-political relevancies that are most important for interpreting the policy in connection with the mothers’ and their children’s lives. I do acknowledge, however, that the present interview study provides only one piece of the puzzle, and that fine-grained analyses of social difference as they are invoked in daily interactional practices may bring forth different, yet complementary, observations of the participants’ everyday negotiations of class. 4 All in all, MCA is not anti-political, nor is it anti-Marxist. It is a technical mentality geared toward inquiry that seeks to ground research claims in empirical exemplifications of the participants’ orientation to certain norms, ideologies, and versions of reality. By viewing class as an interpretive, categorial work in action, MCA provides readers with an analysis that is accountable to the data, powerfully substantiating the participants’ endogenous understandings of class, social structure, and stratification. The analysis provides a foundation, then, for discovering the political uses to which social class categories can be put, and for drawing the political implications that are most relevant to our participants’ interests. In this respect, I hope to have demonstrated that MCA as a powerful methodological tool can bolster the persuasiveness and credibility of social class research by providing a stronger empirical grounding for its analysis, leading into further contribution to studies on social justice and inequality. Acknowledgements The author thanks Gabriele Kasper, Richard Schmidt, Rue Burch, Steven Talmy, and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback on previous drafts of this article. All errors it may contain remain her own. Notes Josephine Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Education at Ewha Womans University. Informed by ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, her research interests center on classroom interaction, second language pedagogy, pragmatics, and qualitative research methods. Currently, she is undertaking projects in bilingual/EFL instructional classroom settings of South Korea. Author for correspondence : Josephine Lee, Department of English Education, Ewha Womans University. < leejosephine@ewha.ac.kr > 1 In this article, the term ‘lived experiences’ is used in an ethnomethodological sense to refer to occasioned versions of reality that are made available and recognizable through social interaction ( Garfinkel 1967) . 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Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Jul 28, 2016

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