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Caroline KerfootProfessor

About me

My research lies at the intersection of critical sociolinguistics, linguistic ethnography, language socialization, and language policy. It addresses questions of multilingualism, epistemic justice, and the construction of social orders in schools characterized by high levels of diversity and mobility. My work examines children’s and youth's communicative practices in encounters across difference in classrooms and playgrounds. It combines long-term ethnography and fine-grained analysis of language interactions, along with archival and other textual material.  This approach allows me to situate everyday linguistic interactions within a larger sociohistorical frame.  This research also contributes to current debates on multilingual pedagogies as well as on decolonizing education.

Current research projects

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) funded sabbatical: Postracial potentials: Language, identity, and epistemic access in multilingual schools. 2018-2019.

NOS (The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences) Contact zones in the Nordic countries: multilingualism, mobility, and diversifying diversity, together with University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, and University of Copenhagen, Denmark. 2017-2019.

Editorial Boards

Multilingual Margins

Reading and Writing: Journal of the Reading Association of South Africa.

Bloomsbury Academic series Multilingualisms and Diversities in Education (series editors Kathleen Heugh, Christopher Stroud and Piet Van Avermaet)

Multilingualism and Language Contact book series, Language Science Press 

Associate Member, The MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Making and Shaping Participatory Spaces

    2018. Caroline Kerfoot. The Multilingual Citizen, 263-288


    In South Africa, democratic consolidation involves not only building a new state but also new interfaces between state and society. In order to strengthen the agency of citizens at these interfaces, recent approaches to development stress the notion of ‘participatory citizenship’ which recasts citizenship as practised rather than given. The purpose of this paper is to explore the links between such practices of participatory citizenship and possibilities for literacy and language education in state adult learning centres. It draws on an impact study of a capacity building programme for educators of adults in the Northern Cape Province and uses interviews and document analysis to explore the ways in which meaning-making unfolded in new participatory spaces. It argues that such processes can be seen as  a form of ‘linguistic citizenship’ in which individuals and groups re-shaped the multilingual representational resources available to them to validate the authority of subaltern actors and mobilise collective agency. It uses the concept of resemiotisation (Iedema 1999) to investigate how the choice of different semiotic complexes enabled or constrained participation and to offer a set of principles for reconceptualising the provision of adult basic education.

    Read more about Making and Shaping Participatory Spaces
  • Entangled discourses

    2017. Caroline Kerfoot, Kenneth Hyltenstam.

    Book (ed)

    This book uniquely explores the shifting structures of power and unexpected points of intersection – entanglements – at the nexus of North and South as a lens through which to examine the impact of global and local circuits of people, practices and ideas on linguistic, cultural and knowledge systems. The volume considers the entanglement of North and South on multiple levels in the contemporary and continuing effects of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, in the form of silenced or marginalized populations, such as refugees, immigrants, and other minoritised groups, and in the different orders of visibility that make some types of practices and knowledge more legitimate and therefore more visible. It uses a range of methodological and analytical frames to shed light on less visible histories, practices, identities, repertoires, and literacies, and offer new understandings for research and for language, health care, education, and other policies and practices.

    Read more about Entangled discourses
  • Game changers? Multilingual learners in a Cape Town primary school

    2016. Caroline Kerfoot, Basirat Bello-Nonjengele. Applied Linguistics 37 (4), 451-473


    This article engages with Bourdieu’s notion of field as a ‘space of play’ to explore what happens to the educational field and the linguistic regimes operating within it in a site in which new discourses and practices of identity, language, ‘race’, and ethnicity become entangled with local economies of meaning. The context is a primary school in a low-income neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa. We draw on multilingual classroom and playground data from observations, interviews, and audio-recorded peer interactions among Grade 6 learners to illuminate the strategic mobilization of linguistic repertoires in encounters across difference: as identity-building resources and as means of shaping new interaction orders, restructuring hierarchies of value, subverting indexicalities, and sometimes resignifying racial categories. We further draw attention to a set of circumstances in which local actors have the potential to change, not only the rules of the game, but the game itself.

    Read more about Game changers? Multilingual learners in a Cape Town primary school

Show all publications by Caroline Kerfoot at Stockholm University