Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Margaret Gebhard

Second Advisor

Mary Wilson

Third Advisor

Laura Valdiviezo

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Teacher Education and Professional Development


In this current era of postmodernity, globalization, and new technological and social conditions, new approaches to literacy teaching are being introduced and examined. Studies that explore complexities of language teaching and learning in discourses of postmodernity as they relate to college contexts are significant for educators, researchers, and policy makers. This study employs a critical ethnographic lens to examine Arabic teaching and learning practices in one college campus in the United States post 9/11. It explores the dialogic construction of critical literacy events in the Arabic classroom where modern and postmodern discourses collide.

Three questions guide the research: who are the students of Arabic and what are their investments in learning Arabic, how do uses of the Arabic language textbook shape curriculum instruction in the Arabic foreign language classroom in contexts of late modernity, and how can teachers of Arabic instantiate critical dialogues and allow a space for negotiated interpretations of modern textbooks in late modern classrooms.

To address these issues, the study draws on post structural and sociocultural theories of language. To analyze ethnographic classroom data, the study adopts broad analytic strategies from interdisciplinary critical language approaches (Dyson, 1993; Fairclough, 2001; Janks, 2010; Rampton, 2006).

Analysis of the data shows that the Arabic language learners relate to the social world through a mosaic of identities and investments influenced by contexts of postmodernity. The data also points to the role of the teacher in opening a space for the construction of plural voices of language learners that disrupts traditional perspectives of schooling.

Implications of the study point towards a need for a new pedagogy that embraces new literacy practices informed by contexts of postmodernity. With new channels of multimodal communications, heterogeneous multicultural societies, and contexts of globalization, foreign language teaching and learning at the college level is in need for vital update that meets the new challenges (Byrnes, 2010; Kramsch, 2009; New London Group, 1996).