Negotiating membership and participation across languages in performative community arts
This article examines multilingual English–Finnish interaction in a community art group, comprising dancers with varying cultural backgrounds, linguistic competences and physical abilities. The group is defined as an artistic / English as a lingua franca community of practice. The study avails of the authors’ ethnographic participant observation in the community and transcribed audiovisual data. Through conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis, the study centers on the negotiation of a role-playing exercise: how language choices reflect identity and enable participation, how individual and social motives and foci of attention contribute to the process of co-creation, and how the discussants merge reality and fiction in transitioning into the world of art. Besides aspects of membership and participation, the analysis uncovers ambiguities that emerge in the collaboration of participants with asymmetric language skills and diverse backgrounds. It also addresses the potential of community art to create an inclusive environment with artistic value.