Interest in identity in the ﬁeld of applied linguistics, more broadly, and language education, more speciﬁcally, is best understood in the context of a shift from a predominantly psycholinguistic approach to second language acquisition (SLA) to include a greater focus on sociological and anthropological dimensions of language learning, particularly with reference to sociocultural, post-structural, and critical theory (Block 2003; Morgan 2007, Norton and Toohey 2001; Ricento 2005; Zuengler and Miller 2006). This chapter will focus on this extensive body of literature, in which researchers are interested not only in linguistic input and output in SLA, but in the relationship between the language learner and the larger social world. It will thus pay particular attention to research that has examined the diverse social, historical, and cultural contexts in which language learning takes place, and how learners negotiate and sometimes resist the diverse opportunities those contexts oﬀer them. In the 1970s and 1980s, language education scholars interested in identity tended to draw
distinctions between social identity and cultural identity. While ‘social identity’ was seen to reference the relationship between the individual language learner and the larger social world, as mediated through institutions such as families, schools, workplaces, social services, and law courts (e.g. Gumperz 1982), ‘cultural identity’ referenced the relationship between an individual and members of a particular ethnic group (such as Mexican and Japanese) who share a common history, a common language, and similar ways of understanding the world (e.g. Valdes 1986). However, as Atkinson (1999) has noted, past theories of cultural identity tended to essentialize and oversimplify identity in problematic ways. In more recent years, the diﬀerence between social and cultural identity is seen to be theoretically more ﬂuid, and the intersections between social and cultural identities are considered more signiﬁcant than their diﬀerences (Duﬀ and Uchida 1997). In this research, identity is seen as socioculturally constructed, and scholars draw on both institutional and community practices to understand the conditions under which language learners speak, read, and write the target language (see Kramsch, this volume). The diverse research covered in journal special issues of Linguistics and Education (Martin-
Jones and Heller 1996), the TESOL Quarterly (Norton 1997), and Language and Education
(Sarangi and Baynham 1996), anticipated the wide range of research on identity, characteristic of the early years of the twenty-ﬁrst century. Many monographs on the topic have also been published over the past decade (Block 2007; Clarke 2008; Day 2002; Heller 2007; Kanno 2008; Kramsch 2010; Miller 2003; Nelson 2009; Norton 2000; Potowski 2007; Stein 2008; Toohey 2000); and the establishment in 2002 of the award-winning Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, edited by Ricento and Wiley, has published an exciting array of research on language, identity and education.