Ms Kate Spowage

PhD Researcher

Summary: My broad interests include: language policy; language ideologies; linguistic hegemony; language and capitalism; and 'Global English.' My thesis examines the politics of Rwandan language policy.

Location: School of English

My research examines the motivations behind, and implications of, the decision to prioritise English in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. The systematic prioritisation of the language has involved changing the language of both government and education, in a move that I argue has been significantly influenced by the dynamics of late global capitalism, and transnationally constructed language ideologies. I challenge the accepted ontology of English (that it exists in any postivistic sense), and in doing so aim to highlight the significance of language ideologies and linguistic hegemony in propagating English under the guise of what Alastair Pennycook called 'economic determinism.' 

This work is motivated in response to numerous accounts of 'Global English' that consider British imperialism and colonial rule to be responsible for the continuing importance given to English in African contexts. Rwanda is a particularly useful site for analysis because it is one of several African countries that have recently diverted resources away from the promotion of French, in favour of English, thereby challenging its traditional categorisation as 'francophone'. The very existence of such a trend challenges the simplistic notion that where English is prioritised in Africa it is merely a continuation of colonial policy. In my research, I examine the complex dynamics of economics, hegemony, and myth in order to challenge the Eurocentric perspective that English has spread from the centre to the periphery, and to offer a nuanced contribution to the ongoing discussion around the global predominance of English.

Conference Papers and Presentations:

'Challenging the Monolingual Classroom: Translingual Interaction in Rwanda'. BAAL Language in Africa Special Interest Group Annual Conference, University of Reading, May 2017.

Invited Panelist, Language in Africa Colloquium 'The Role of Language in Development in sub-Saharan Africa'. BAAL Conference, University of Leeds, 31 August - 2 September 2017.  

Teaching Responsibilities: 

Analysing English (Level 1). Module Tutor. 

Professional Development: 

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Residential Course, 19th-23rd June: 'Researching translanguaging: Key concepts, methods & issues', 19-23 June 2017. 


Douglas Jefferson Scholarship, University of Leeds, 2016-20.