Soft power of language in social inclusion and exclusion and the unintended research outcomes


Anna Odrowaz-Coates

The Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw, Poland, and UNESCO Janusz Korczak Chair, 


The paper refers to a small fraction of raw data obtained during 50 interviews carried out in Lisbon and in Warsaw in 2017-2018. Through the preliminary interpretative analysis with the use of MAXQDA 2018, a connection between English language and soft power (Nye 2004) was established. ‘Soft power’ is a political concept, re-introduced in this paper through the novel interpretation of the research data, whilst looking at the English language from a socio-political, critical pedagogy perspective, in order to investigate its implications for social inclusion and exclusion. Moreover, unexpected matrixes of language, gender and power were discovered, embodying Boudon’s concept of unintended consequences of social action (1993). The study was conducted with the use of soft system methodology (SSM) and the notion of ‘soft’ in social sciences was explored. It also introduced SSM to the analysis of social aspects of the English language in public spaces in Poland and Portugal. Moreover, the results of the study confirmed that there is a connection between English language acquisition and the socio-economic positioning of workers in these locations. The study should be treated as singular and with no intention of building a universal theory, but aims to look into language from an original perspective and to share the most interesting quotes from the research participants, to reveal people’s own voices and their own words (appropriately coded to maintain anonymity) and to establish direct contact between the interviewees and their audience.

Keywords: language, soft power, gender, soft system methodology, social inclusion


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