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ERIC Number: EJ1134396
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 22
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0826-435X
Telling Stories of Violence in Adult ESL Classrooms: Disrupting Safe Spaces
Waterhouse, Monica
TESL Canada Journal, v33 spec iss 10 p20-41 2016
This article develops a complex understanding of safe space in relation to adult refugee learners' oral literacy practice of telling stories of violent life experiences in English as a second language (ESL) classrooms. A rhizoanalytic approach brings theoretical and empirical elements into conversation to ask two questions. Can the exigencies of safe classroom spaces accommodate the telling/hearing of violent stories? What might be the pedagogical potential of such storytelling in ESL classrooms? Grounded in literature critiquing safe space discourses and theoretical work that views the telling of violent stories as ambivalent (destructive and productive), I argue that unproblematic conceptualizations of safe classrooms become impossible when refugees are involved. I present a data assemblage drawn from a qualitative study with two ESL teachers and four students. In a series of interview vignettes, the students describe their experiences of hearing their classmates' stories of violence, highlighting the emotional impact of these experiences and their capacity to bring on new ways of thinking. This analysis reframes refugee storytellers as powerful, agentive forces in the ESL classroom and suggests that sharing stories is pedagogical in the sense that it affects and transforms learners. In closing, I discuss the practical and ethical implications of the research.
TESL Canada Federation. 408-4370 Dominion Street, Burnaby, BC V5G 4L7, Canada. Tel: 604-298-0312; Fax: 604-298-0372; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A