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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Trapped in Our Origin Stories: Interrogating the Ideologies of ESL Citizenship Classrooms

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This paper examines the ideological conceptions of language and literacy practices in an adult, English as a Second Language (ESL) citizenship class for naturalization. Naturalization refers to the process for obtaining U.S citizenship undergone by lawful permanent residents after meeting extensive federal requirements. I situate neoliberalism within settler-colonial, anti-Black logics, and I define neoliberal citizens through language and economic ideologies. By privileging ESL citizenship students’ perspectives, this paper shows how the ESL citizenship classroom, like others, continues to embrace reductive notions of functionality through English-only instruction. I trace how students take up these neoliberal ideologies through performative belonging and performative othering as well as the ways students deviate from these values and the possibilities therein.

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