Dr Kate Spowage

Dr Kate Spowage


I did my undergraduate work, my Masters by Research, and my PhD at the University of Leeds. I joined the University as a Lecturer in September 2020. 

Research interests

Broadly, I am interested in the politics of language, by which I mean the relations between language, society, history, and politics. In order to explore the role of language in sociopolitical life, I draw on interdisciplinary methodologies, particularly from sociolinguistics, political theory, and cultural theory. My work engages with ‘global’ languages, both as an idea and a (putative) phenomenon. Chiefly, my interest is in ‘global English’, but I also work on French and La Francophonie

Much of my work has centred on Rwanda, and trying to understand the political function of Rwandan language policy. Rwanda is an excellent case study in this respect: after having been colonised by Belgium, the first independent government maintained the power and prestige of French, but, after 1994, the post-genocide government progressively shifted focus from French to English. Ahead of a planned monograph on the subject, I have examined different aspects of this question. Topics that I have covered include: the role of English in constructing Rwandan neoliberal hegemony; the interrelation between English-medium mass education, social class, and the requirements of transnational capitalist enterprise; La Francophonie and the Rwandan Civil War; and translanguaging as a site of resistance in Rwandan classrooms.

I am also interested in post-colonial contexts more broadly, and in the relations between colonialism, its legacies, and linguistic thought in Britain and Europe. In this regard, I have worked on: the history of ‘Bantu’ as a category (originally) applied broadly to sub-Saharan African speakers; race, colonialism, and the work of Johann Gottfried Herder; and linguistic nationalism in relation to the ‘Brexit’ debate in modern Britain. With Dr. Hayley G. Toth, I am currently working on the liberal linguistic thought of John Locke in relation to internal colonialism and fears around mass literacy in Victorian Britain.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD English Language
  • MRes English Language
  • BA (Hons) English Language and Linguistics

Professional memberships

  • Treasurer, British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Language in Africa Special Interest Group
  • Raymond Williams Society

Student education

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I teach on a range of modules in the School of English, including Key Concepts in English Language Study, Language in Society, Keywords, and the Politics of Language. I also supervise dissertations in Sociolinguistics and the Politics of Language (and welcome enquiries in these areas).