Can Subaltern, Multilingual and Multidialectical Bodies Feel? An Aspirational Call for Undoing the Coloniality of Affects in English Learning and Teaching

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education








When Spivak (1988/2010) provocatively raised the question “Can the subaltern speak?” and concluded that they cannot, she did not mean that the subaltern literally or physically cannot speak. She meant that Western/Eurocentric/White ways of knowing and languaging produce colonial, epistemic violence that silences subaltern bodies.

In this conceptual paper, I pose a related question: “Can subaltern, multilingual and multidialectical bodies feel?” Little attention has been paid to understanding the affect of multilingual and multidialectical students during English Learning and Teaching (ELT) . As a teacher educator/researcher positioned within ELT in the white settler context of the U.S., I reach a conclusion similar to that reached by Spivak. When dominant ELT research and practice rejects the languaging and affective experiences of multilingual and multidialectical students, those students are treated as subaltern bodies that cannot speak or feel.

Here, I ask how subaltern, multilingual and multidialectical bodies can speak and feel in learning English. I argue that the (de)coloniality of affects must be a key conceptual framework for teaching English to multilingual and multidialectical students.


© 2023 Caddo Gap Press. All Rights Reserved.


0000-0001-5733-435X (Maddamsetti)

Original Publication Citation

Maddamsetti, J. (2023). Can subaltern, multilingual and multidialectical bodies feel? An aspirational call for undoing the coloniality of affects in English Learning and Teaching. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 22(2), 65-90, Article 5. https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/taboo/vol22/iss2/5/