Identity, time-scales, and children’s multimodal texts

Kate Pahl

University of Sheffield, UK

WS140: Multilingualism and identities across Contexts: Turkish-speaking Youth in Europe

Identity, time-scales, and children’s multimodal texts

How can children’s multimodal multilingual texts be understood in relation to practices in the home? This paper will draw on Lemke (2000)’s work on artefacts and their accrued meaning in relation to timescales. It will explore the relationship between the timescale attached to an object and its accrued meaning within a home. Certain objects held more meanings within family homes than others. Migration across diasporas sometimes intensified or problematized these meanings. These complex meanings attached to objects and experience can then be understood as linking to children’s text making, in that children draw on such objects and experience when creating multimodal texts. The presentation will also draw on work by Wortham (2003) in analysing the way timescales are linked to constructions of identity. These complex experiences and objects can be understood to be instantiated within children’s multimodal texts. Identities in practice are formed, for example, from the experience of moving backwards and forwards between one country and the other. This process, of sedimented identities in texts, can be observed within home text making (Rowsell and Pahl 2007).

This presentation will draw on a longitudinal ethnographic research project involving the study of multimodal texts collected from the home of a Turkish child in North London. Over a period of three years, the researcher visited the home, collected texts, conducted interviews, and collected textual and photographic evidence from the home. Ethnographic observations were also undertaken at the child’s school. The presentation will consider the way in which meanings attached to specific multimodal objects were shaped as the child travelled between Turkey and London. In particular, it will look at how the sign ‘bird’, realised as a model, as a drawing, and written in Turkish and also in English, became associated with identity narratives connected with the child’s experiences of migration. The shaping and realisation of this text was recorded over time, and was connected to specific family practices, such as visiting Turkey and also school practices, such as reading ‘The Ugly Duckling’. The child was able to negotiate these identities by means of the bird text (Blackledge and Pavlenko 2004). The presentation will consider how a multimodal understanding of children’s texts can enrich discussions of multilingualism and identity.


Blackledge, A. and Pavlenko A. (2003) Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Clevedon; Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Lemke, J.L. (2000) ‘Across the Scales of Time: Artifacts, Activities and Meanings in Ecosocial Systems’. Mind, Culture and Activity. 7 (4) pp273 – 290

Rowsell, J. and Pahl, K. (2007) Sedimented identities in texts: Instances of practice. Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 42, Issue 3 pp 388-401

Wortham, S (2006) Learning Identity: The Joint Emergence of Social Identification and Academic Learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Multilingualism and identities across Contexts: Turkish-speaking Youth in Europe
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 07