Seeing the point from which you see what you see: An essay on epistemic reflexivity in language research

  • Linus Salö Stockholm University
Keywords: Epistemic reflexivity, Pierre Bourdieu, language planning and policy, language and politics, interviews


This essay deals with epistemic issues in language research, focusing particularly on
the field of language planning and policy (LPP). It outlines Pierre Bourdieu’s principle
of epistemic reflexivity as a device for understanding what the view of the research
object owes to the researcher’s past and present position in social space. I hold that
developing such an understanding is particularly vital for LPP scholars, by virtue
of the ways in which the objects investigated here tend to linger in the borderlands
between science and politics. Accordingly, the essay unearths the philosophical roots
of epistemic reflexivity and highlights some of its implications in the research practice
with examples from Swedish LPP research. It also examines the value of a reflexive
stance in interviews as a way of pinpointing the relevance of epistemic reflexivity in
every moment of the scholarly investigation. In conclusion, the argument is that since
epistemic reflexivity is a useful device for any critical researcher who wishes to grasp the
knowledge he or she produces, it is so also for language researchers, and particularly
so in relation to the ideologically normative practices of LPP scholarship. Therefore, a
reflexive gaze is a pivotal driver for yielding better language research.