Kate Spowage


I am currently undertaking PhD research within the broad field of the politics of language. In this capacity, I work with Professor Tony Crowley.

Research interests

My research interests include: 'global' English; the history of linguistic ideas; language policy; language and ideology; language and discourse; language, colonialism, and decolonisation; language and capitalism; and hegemony.

In my thesis, I focus on the politics of language in Rwanda. In particular, I am interested in what the Rwandan context can teach us about the relationship between the politics of language (broadly, language as it exists in social, economic, and political relations) and ideology, hegemony, and discourse. Thus, I work closely with political and cultural theory in order to understand the relationship between language in power in the Rwandan context. 

This research is inseperable from the wider concern of 'global' English, precisely because English has become increasingly important in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. Rwanda is a particularly useful case study for two reasons. First, because the country was colonised by Belgium, and under the Belgian administration French was imposed as the language of power. Second, because Rwanda is one of few post-colonial countries wherein virtually all citizens are mutually intelligble (some figures attest that as many as 99.9% of the population is able to speak Kinyarwanda). Thus, to explain the prioritisation of English in Rwanda we cannot reasonably claim that the language is either a colonial inheritance or a lingua franca. The situation necessitates a nuanced approach to the relationship between language, power, and globalisation.  


English and Marx's 'General Intellect': The Construction of an English-Speaking Élite in Rwanda. Language Sciences. 70, pp.167-178. 2018. 

Beyond ‘Fashoda Syndrome’: The Rwandan Civil War and the Politics of La Francophonie in Africa. Language Matters50, pp.4-25. 2019.  

Reading as Telementation and the Hegemonic Potential of Mass Literacy in Britain, 1712-1870. In Preparation (co-authored with Hayley G. Toth).

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.

''Brexit', Language Debates, and Legitimate Language in Britain: Exploring the Focus on Linguistic Assimilation'. After Empire? The Contested History of Decolonisation, Migration and Race in Modern Britain, University of Leeds, 13th-14th December 2018. 

Invited contributor, 'Decolonising Methodology' workshop. 'Historicisation as (a start to) decolonisation'. BAAL Language in Africa Special Interest Group Annual Conference, University of Portsmouth, 10th May 2019. 

Teaching Experience:

Seminar Tutor. 'Analysing English', Level One, 2017-18; 2018-19. 

Workshop Leader and Lecturer. ‘Key Concepts in English Language Study One: Language in History’, Level One, 2019-2020. 

Seminar Tutor. ‘Language: Meaning and Use’, Level One, 2019-2020. 

Other Roles:

Treasurer, British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Language in Africa Special Interest Group, July 2019 - Present.

School of English PGR Rep, September 2017 - October 2018. 

Visiting PhD Student, Aarhus Universitet. May - June 2018.

Professional Development:

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

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). 


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

AUFF Visiting Grant, Aarhus Universitet, May-June 2018.


  • MRes English Language, Distinction
  • BA English Language and Linguistics, First Class