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“La Orquesta”: Symbolic Performance in a Multilingual Community of Practice



Researchers in second language socialization (SLS) often examine those interactions relating to a learner's integration within a target community. Kramsch and Whiteside (2008) noted the importance of symbolic competence in this integration. Symbolic competence, defined as the ability to access contextually relevant social and political histories in order to “play with various linguistic codes and the various spatial and temporal resonances of these codes” (p. 664), is viewed at least partially in interaction. The current article contains an analysis of how one individual performed his own orientations of symbolic competence—what I term symbolic performance—in the context of his community of practice. Through a close discourse analysis of a conversation between Alejandro, a native speaker of Spanish, and members of his Quichua-speaking community, I highlight how certain symbols and histories were performed in what was, on the surface, a lighthearted interaction. This analysis reveals how members of the target community resisted some aspects of Alejandro's performance and examines the implications of this resistance for Alejandro's socialization into the community. The findings of this study add to a new body of literature that operationalizes and problematizes the notion of symbolic competence in multilingual communities of practice and other SLS contexts.

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