Electronic Theses and Dissertations




Rooh Ul Amin



Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Sage Graham

Committee Member

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Ronald Fuentes


In Pakistani universities, English plays the key role in students’ upward academic and social mobility; however students do not always enter universities with equal English language skills. This study, therefore, extensively explores the relationship between English language learners’ (ELLs) access to English via prior schooling (public vs. private), participation in classroom discourses and negotiation of identities and power relationships as situated social processes. Informed by Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital and cultural reproduction complemented with the communities of practice (CoP) approach, this study explores how ELLs’ identity and power relationships in an ESL classroom are shaped by (un)limited cultural capital—the abilities gained via prior language training. These abilities in English, in turn, shape individual disposition at the microlevel and sociocultural life trajectories at the macrolevel. A total of 80 graduate ESL students’ volunteer participation informs this study. Data collection includes surveys, semistructured interviews and classroom observation. The in-depth analysis of the data reveals that students from public schools background participate relatively less in classroom discourses, significantly affected by their limited exposure to English language speaking practice in schools. Moreover, students from public school position themselves as disadvantaged compared to their private schools counterparts. In addition, urban and rural divide is another significant factor affecting student’ cultural capital, that is, language and education where students from urban areas have comparatively good English language proficiency due to easy access to cable networks, the Internet, and television. While unpacking not only the symbolic domination of English but also highlighting the invisible power of English in an ESL classroom that nourishes inequitable educational opportunities, this study has policy implications and gives recommendations for equal access to language education in Pakistan.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.