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Keywords:

  • linguistic incompetence;
  • researching multilingually;
  • linguistic hospitality;
  • multilingual;
  • refugees
  • image

This paper considers the place of linguistic competence and incompetence in the context of researching multilingually. It offers a critique of the concept of competence and explores the performative dimensions of multilingual research and its narration, through the philosophy of Judith Butler, and in particular her study Giving an account of oneself. It explores aspects of risk, justice, narrative limit and a morality of multilingualism in emergent multilingual research frameworks. These theoretical dimensions are explored through consideration of ‘linguistically incompetent’ ethnographic work with refugees and asylum seekers, in contexts of hospitality and in life long learning research in the Gaza Strip, and of early attempts to learn new languages. The paper offers a prospect of a relational approach to researching multilingually and affirms the vulnerability at the heart of linguistic hospitality.

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