WATESOL is pleased to welcome our keynote speaker, Dr. Suhanthie Motha! 

"Is anti-racist English language teaching possible? Striving for racial justice in TESOL."

prepared for WATESOL's 51st Annual Fall Conference

Dr. Suhanthie Motha


With increasing public attention to entrenched patterns of systemic racial injustice, the landscape of the English teaching profession has shifted over the past eighteen months, emphasizing for English teachers the degree to which the notion of language can never be conceptualized in a narrow sense but must always be understood in sociohistorical context and as intertwined with capital, class, gender, religion, ability, nation, and particularly race. As English language teachers practice our craft, our work continues to be embedded in histories of conquest, racial violence, and domination, and in a contemporary context of inequitable global racial power. These enduring legacies are indelibly but invisibly woven throughout our language practices, pedagogies, relationships, and the educational, social, and institutional spaces we are immersed in.

This leaves English teachers asking ourselves complicated questions and navigating challenging terrain. What does it mean to be an English teacher at this particular moment? How might we as English teachers reconceptualize the goals of our practice given the racialized nature of the notion of English? How can we maintain a critical eye toward the legacy of colonization and racialization in which the profession is embedded when we know that privileged forms of English can open doors for our students? How can we negotiate the racialized nature of the English language as we are teaching it? How might we attend to the messy intertwining of English with what Flores (2016) has termed ‘hegemonic Whiteness’? How does our consciousness of our own racial identities become salient in our practice?

This presenter asks what an ELT practice that is clear-sighted about the injuries and damages of colonialism and racial inequity might look like. She asks: Is the teaching of English irretrievably rooted in race and empire? Is antiracist English language teaching possible? What might it look it? And how might it be achieved?

Dr. Suhanthie Motha

Associate Professor, English Department, University of Washington

Dr. Suhanthie Motha’s research explores the centrality of race and empire within the workings of the English language teaching profession and industry. A teacher educator, the director of a graduate program in TESOL, and an associate professor in the English Department at the University of Washington, she is the author of Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching, which won the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics’ Choice Book Award and the Comparative and International Education Society’s (CIES) Globalization and Education SIG’s Book Award. Her work has been published in journals including TESOL QuarterlyModern Language JournalCritical Inquiry in Language StudiesRace Ethnicity and EducationPeace and Change, and Language Teaching, and in edited collections representing a range of areas.

2023 Fall Conference Sponsors

Contact vicepresident@watesol.org for WATESOL sponsorship opportunities.


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