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Opening up ideological spaces for multilingual literacies at the margins of the Portuguese education system? Ethnographic insights from a Russian complementary school

  • Olga Solovova EMAIL logo


Eastern European migration to Portugal is a relatively recent yet significant phenomenon due to its impact on national legislation and discourses about language, citizenship and identity. Along with other migration movements to Portugal, it has also brought about changes in state policies. The monolingual order within the Portuguese education system has been reinforced through the adoption of the notion of ‘Portuguese as a non-native language’ and the creation of different categories of speakers of ‘other’ languages. While these discourses predominate within the national educational system, other discursive spaces (such as complementary schools and playgroups) are being constructed, on the margins of Portuguese society, where other languages and literacies are being learned and used, alongside Portuguese. This paper presents some insights from longitudinal ethnographic research (2004–2013) that was carried out in a complementary school for Russian-speaking children in Portugal run by their parents and grandparents. It looks into the complex ways in which literacy ideologies and practices were reproduced, contested and negotiated in this particular discursive space. It also shows how students drew on the language, literacy and semiotic resources within their communicative repertoires in different ways as they responded agentively to tasks set by the teacher. The paper concludes with reflections on the potential of the complementary school as a “safe space” for fostering flexible multilingual pedagogies.


This research was carried out with support from the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia SFRH/BD/41514/2007, from March 2008 to March 2012.


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Published Online: 2019-10-26
Published in Print: 2019-11-26

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