‘Glocal Languages’ and ‘Intercultural Responsibility’ in a postcolonial global academic world: Power relations between languages/cultures within and between research groups


Given the association of European languages/cultures with historical colonialism and nowadays with economic and epistemological imperialism, the nature of their reception, use and evolution as well as the role of local native/indigenous languages in academic contexts deserve scientific attention. Furthermore, internationalisation and globalisation have been established as governmental priorities and subsequently as main goals for higher education institutions and research programmes. At the same time, English has become a powerful linguistic tool, all over the world, and also among doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, but Spanish and Portuguese are gaining preponderance as global languages, also due to their colonial past and contemporary relevance. Together with this criss-crossing of linguistic networks, there are cultural identifications and hybridizations that require researchers, in any field of knowledge, here named as ‘GLOCADEMICS’, to be critically reflexive upon the subtleties of intercultural communication/interaction in democratic, decolonial and global academic exchanges. They should be able to act within a conceptual framework that is mindful of an ‘ecology of knowledges’ and capable of promoting a dialogue between different epistemologies.

GLOCADEMICS carried out research on the representation, positioning and workings of European ‘glocal’ languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish), and of indigenous languages as well, and on the promotion of ‘intercultural responsibility’, both through the study of language and intercultural policies in the curricular management of a sample of Language/Culture Departments and of intercultural communication/interaction in a sample of research teams, both in the Social Sciences and in the Life Sciences. All in all, the two-year study was carried out in 4 public universities in Brazil. During phase 1 (Sept. 2014 – Sept. 2015) data were collected from language teachers of Portuguese, English, Spanish and Indigenous languages in 3 public universities (27 teachers altogether) about their priorities in curriculum management with regard to linguistic and cultural contents; more particularly about the contents, perspectives and approaches taken by their syllabi as well as about conceptual frameworks regarding language that they were putting into practice, about linguistic and cultural representations, perceptions about interculturality, competencies, attitudes and values promoted in their classes, about citizenship education and their ‘glocal’ horizon as academics. During phase 2 (Sept. 2015 – Sept. 2016) data were collected through ‘research on research’, with 5 research groups, in 3 public universities, through individual meetings, document reading (reports, papers and related documents on each research topic) and final focus-group interviews. Interview guides, specifically prepared for each group, dealt with the role and use of each language, conceptual negotiation, intercultural epistemological exchange and the need for suitable development programmes on the above for young researchers. Finally, during phase 3 (Sept. 2016 – Sept. 2017), the results of this two-phase empirical study in Brazil were analysed, back at the Centro de Estudos Sociais, under the theoretical framework of the bibliography collected throughout the project and having in mind the outputs of previously completed projects ALICE (European Research Council) and RIAIPE3 (ALFA Programme), coordinated by Portuguese institutions with which the PI has worked.

The overall objectives leading the whole project activities were above all: (a) to focus on (south-south, south-north, north-south) epistemological exchanges as well as on the corresponding institutional and personal relations; (b) to critically analyse the postcolonial tensions between different multinational and multicultural research team members; (c) to critically examine the power relations between English, Portuguese and Spanish in the academy and, if any, the native/indigenous languages with institutional representation, both in the curriculum and in research; (d) to analyse how the three European languages most widely spoken in the world (English, Portuguese and Spanish) relate to each other in the Brazilian academy (Social Sciences and Life Sciences); and (e) to find out about language representation and policies in the Brazilian Academy.
Accordingly, this project, albeit one carried out by an individual researcher only, can be viewed as field analysis and as a pilot study to be taken into consideration for major international collaborations as well as for development programmes aimed at young researchers’ learning about the implications of plurilingualism, intercultural communication and intercultural epistemological translation for the purpose of their international research collaborations and exchanges. Project objectives and outputs were disseminated as far as possible in seminars and workshops, both in Brazil and in Europe, as well as international publications that raised much interest in the scientific community, more particularly among the project participants. This project suggests that universities should also focus on research micro-contexts while implementing institutional agreements for the purpose of their internationalisation and globalisation. It also offers support to programme developers through its theoretical and practical study introducing a new conceptual framework based on three axes: - ‘Glocademics’, ‘Glocal languages’, and ‘Intercultural Responsibility’ – complementary and/or alternative to current concepts/notions such as: ‘Higher Education globalisation/internationalisation’, ‘Lingua franca’ and ‘Intercultural Competence’.

Brazil is an immense geographical area with a wide variety of cultural, linguistic and institutional differences and each university context displays different interests and needs that provided many challenges for the PI to overcome and, consequently, urged for a lot of learning and training of skills about implementing an innovative and ambitious project, moreover in an almost unknown environment in the middle of deep political and social crisis. In Tom Jobim’s words, the world known musician: - “Brazil is not for beginners …”, and indeed it is not. However, I believe that one can say that the Glocademics project broke some new ground for transnational scientific collaboration and its outputs are relevant both for policymakers and the scientific community involved in international research projects, more specifically between Europe and Latin America, and offer a new interdisciplinary and intercultural research field worth to be developed transnationally.

Principal Investigator

Maria Manuela Guilherme
Marie Curie Research Fellow
Biography in The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (2013)



Funding Institution



Manuela Guilherme - a plenary speaker at the following and upcoming 6th major international conference on Multicultural Discourses (Journal of Multicultural Discourses) at the University of Tilburg, Netherlands, with the talk “Multicultural discourses across ‘glocalising’ epistemologies in transnational research” (Link here )