Issues of power in relation to gender and sexuality in the EFL classroom - An overview

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Faculty of Educational Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University

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Schools in general and classrooms in particular are among society’s primary socializing institutions (Freeman and McElhinny, 1996, p. 261; Adger, 2001). In particular, education, as an institution of Gramsci’s ‘civil society’ (Jones, 2006), can be considered a grassroots space where hegemonic gendered and sexual identities are constructed and regulated. This article looks at the context of the EFL classroom – a discursive space where learners are potentially (re-)constructed in relation to various (gender) roles in society as well as learning the practices, values and rules of a given society at large. In this paper we explore and discuss how the categories of gender and sexuality are represented, (re-)constructed and generally dealt with in this learning environment. We follow Foucault’s (1978, 1979) conceptualization of power as something which “weaves itself discursively through social organizations, meanings, relations and the construction of speakers’ subjectivities or identities” (Baxter, 2003, p. 8) and is enacted and contested in every interaction (see Mullany, 2007). We see power as being produced, reproduced, challenged and resisted in the EFL classroom in connection with the construction of gender and sexuality. The article discusses how views on what/who is ‘powerful’ in the context of the EFL classroom have changed over the years, from the early privileging of textbooks to the currently advocated central role of the teacher in addressing and promoting (or not) traditional and/or progressive discourses of gender and sexuality. Critical pedagogies and queer pedagogies are discussed as offering educators potent insights and tools to deal with heteronormativity and various forms of discrimination in the EFL classroom as well as helpful means for empowering all students by addressing their various identities. It is thus our contention that relationships between gender, sexuality and EFL education are in need of urgent (re)addressing as existing research is outdated, lacks methodological sophistication or is lacking in the Polish context.




critical pedagogies, EFL classroom, gender, heteronormativity, power, queer pedagogies, sexuality, talk-around-the-test, EFL textbooks


Pawelczyk Joanna, Łukasz Pakuła, Jane Sunderland. 2014. "Issues of power in relation to gender and sexuality in the EFL classroom - An overview", Journal of Gender and Power 1 (1): 49-66.



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego