Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, PhD, Chair Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member Sarina Chugani Molina, EdD, Member


multilingual women, gender, English, language ideology, language as symbolic power


Resulting both from its historical connection to imperialism and its current connection to globalization and neoliberal capitalist expansion, the English language is wrapped up with socioeconomic, cultural, and postcolonial forms of power, manifesting in language ideologies that affect the way we perceive, pass on, and learn English. Even as there are various camps in regard to both the benefits and deleterious effects of English spread, there is broad consensus that English serves as a form of symbolic capital. Where the research is lacking in this area is in our understanding of the English language as a gendered form of symbolic power from women’s unique perspectives. This qualitative research sheds light on the aforementioned by focusing on the relationship between language, gender, and power for a select sample of English-speaking multilingual Indian women.

Using a grounded theory approach and taken up from a critical lens and a feminist standpoint epistemology, this largely exploratory design traded breadth for depth and engaged in the creation of a third space in order to examine these women’s language ideologies and experiences. The three major findings of this research include: 1) that these women are highly attuned to the symbolic power of language, especially but not solely English; and that awareness manifests in their feelings about education, accent, identity, and language hierarchies, 2) that English is paradoxically viewed as both “a positive” and “a negative” even as perceptions of English and Empire remain in flux, and 3) that these women’s experiences with English are gendered across their lifespans–beginning early in their education, unto their potential marriages and job opportunities, and extending out to their language use with their children should they have them. These findings contribute to our understanding of English’s specific entanglements with power in patriarchal contexts like India and the United States as well as to our understanding of women’s broader professional, educational, and ideological experiences with the English language.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only


Leadership Studies

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