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Narratives of Participation, Identity, and Positionality: Two Cases of Saudi Learners of English in the United States



This article reports a study that investigated how two Saudi Arabian men negotiated their positionality vis-à-vis a host community in the United States and how they engaged in different discursive practices in order to achieve fuller participation in the various worlds that became important to them. The study takes data from a larger research project that looked at the narrated experiences of nine adult learners enrolled in an intensive English program in the United States. Data were collected over a 6-month period using ethnographic data collection tools such as classroom observations, individual interviews, and student-designed second language (L2) photo narratives. The article focuses on the processes by which two language learners of a particularly politicized and racialized cultural group (Muslims of Arab descent) were able to renegotiate their peripherality through their ongoing interactions as “novices” in new L2 “expert” communities (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Although the two cases diverge in critical ways, the findings show not only how post-9/11 discourses served as powerfully marginalizing structures, but also how the learners actively managed those structures in their bids for fuller participation in L2 communities.