This study of a Swedish university classroom engages with ‘southern thinking’ that promotes ethical approaches to epistemological difference and sociolinguistic organisation (e.g. Kerfoot & Hyltenstam, 2017; Heugh, Stroud & Scarino, 2018). It investigates how contemporary social sciences classrooms’ (international) students and teachers navigate the dynamics arising from perceptions of linguistic, epistemological, and racial belonging and legitimacy. Specifically, it examines how those perceived to be ‘other’ come to find themselves at home in their Swedish classrooms (or not). While previous classroom ethnographies have taken up issues of sociolinguistic difference, this paper emphasises the ethical grounds within which such difference is integrated, and also recognised and accepted in its alterity; or, in other words, within which it is hospitably received (Levinas 1986; Derrida 2002).

The study draws on 4-months of intensive ethnographic fieldwork, including audio-recorded observations, interviews, photos, and fieldnotes. It analyses instances of humorous, ironic, and multilingual ‘performance’ (Billig 2005, Colebrook 2004, Bauman 1986) by a key participant in order to highlight and test the limits of his position in the classroom, concomitantly illuminating moments of it becoming otherwise. Findings indicate that certain classroom members, their ethical becoming and the emergence of communicative, epistemological and linguistic forms of difference were rarely taken seriously or made welcome. Nevertheless, the data reveals the potential and desire for their acceptance, as well as promises of an increase in a dialogic teaching and learning that accepts and promotes such difference.

Keywords: Ethics, Higher Education, Internationalisation. Linguistic Ethnography, Performance.


Bauman, R. (1986) Story, Performance and Event: Contextual Studies of Oral Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Billig, M. (2005) Laughter and Ridicule. London: Sage.

Colebrook, C. (2004) Irony. Oxon: Routledge.

Derrida, J., (2002) ‘Hostipitality’ trans. Gil Anidjar, in Gil Anidjar (Ed.) Acts of Religion. Oxon: Routledge.
Heugh, K., Stroud, C., & Scarino, A. (2018) Spaces of exception: southern multilingualisms as resource and risk. Current Issues in Language Planning. (20)1, 100-119.

Kerfoot, C., & Hyltenstam, K. (Eds.). (2017). Entangled discourses. South-North orders of visibility. New York: Routledge.

Levinas, E. (1986) Face to Face with Levinas. Albany: State University of
New York Press.


Luke Holmes is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research on Bilingualism at Stockholm University, Sweden. His main research interests are sociolinguistic in nature and his focus is on increasingly diverse and trans-local academic contexts, and the language-related challenges being met therein. He has a background in English language and literacy teaching, with teaching experience in the UK, Spain, and China. He is the author of a recently published chapter in the edited volume, Language Perceptions and Practices in Multilingual Universities (2020, Palgrave Macmillan), titled ‘Disrupting Dual monolingualisms? Language Ideological Ordering in an Internationalizing Swedish University’. He is also a contributing author of an upcoming chapter in the edited volume, co-authored with Linus Salö and Linnea Hanell, Language Matters in Higher Education Contexts – Policy and Practice (2022, Brill), titled ‘Language assets, scientific prestige, and academic power. The efficacy of national linguistic capital in internationalizing career trajectories’.