Language and Society: "World Englishes, Capitalism, and Colonialism"

Please join us for two events centred on World Englishes, Capitalism, and Colonialism! Both events are free. You are welcome to attend either or both, and you do not need a ticket to attend in person

Research talk (3-4:30pm, School of English alumni room)

Professor John P. O’Regan (IOE, Faculty of Education and Society, UCL): "Material Considerations for a World Englishes that is Critically Applied"


In a recent book (O’Regan 2021), I have argued for a political-economic understanding of the global hegemony of English in which English and its historical indexicality are conceptualized in relation to the rise of capitalism and its global spread. Without such an understanding, what we are left with is an actualist or empirical realist conception of English in which there has been an unforced absenting of ‘the real’ (Bhaskar 1998). The historical imbrication of English in processes of capitalism and capital accumulation has implications for the claim that pluricentricity is the new orthodoxy in the sociolinguistics of English (Sridhar 2019). In a world that remains in thrall to normative forms such claims seem overdone. It follows from this that to rely on actualist analysis is insufficient, materialist analysis is essential too, and it is the argument of this paper that World Englishes would be better served if a greater critical accounting of the material were incorporated within it.

Prof O'Reagan will be joined by three discussants -- Dr Kate Spowage (English), Dr Diane Nelson (LCS) and Prof Maggie Kubanyiova (Education) -- who will each offer their perspectives after the talk, before opening out to questions and discussion from the audience.

Book Launch (4:30-6pm, School of English Foyer)

Kate Spowage (University of Leeds) will launch her new monograph, Language as Statecraft: 'Global English' and the Politics of Language in Rwanda.


In Language as Statecraft, Spowage examines the complex history of language politics in Rwanda, aiming to procure new insights into the mechanisms behind ‘global English’. Rwanda made headlines in 2008 by changing its medium of instruction from French to English, virtually overnight. Spowage argues that this moment, understood as part of a long history of sociolinguistic engineering in Rwanda, sheds light on the role of language as a technology for statecraft. Drawing on the work of political, cultural, and linguistic theorists including Antonio Gramsci, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, and Pierre Bourdieu, and building on the Rwandan case study, Spowage asks us to reimagine ‘global English’ from the bottom-up, paying greater attention to class struggle and the considerable political and ideological power wielded by post-colonial States.

The book launch will involve a discussion between Kate and John, followed by a Q&A. It will take place in the School of English Foyer, 10 Cavendish Road, Leeds (to the right of the main entrance).

Register here to get a link to the Teams meeting.