Dr Navan Govender




Personal statement

Navan N. Govender (SFHEA) is a Lecturer in Applied Language and Literacy Studies at the School of Education, University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, United Kingdom).

I am fundamentally interested in the role of texts in mediating relationships of power in English language, literacy, and literary education. This includes how texts are produced, used, circulated, and redesigned in and beyond contexts of teaching and learning. This involves working within the multidisciplinary field of critical literacies which understands that language (and sign systems more broadly), literacy (and meaning-making more broadly), power, identity, and social justice are intrinsic to the wholistic cognitive, social, and ethical development of young people and adults. It also understands that language and literacy education is bound to ideology (value-systems), and is therefore also a site for social and political action toward socially just futures.

My scholar-activist work in qualitative research and pedagogy therefore draws explicitly on the fields of critical applied linguistics, literacy studies, critical (multimodal) discourse analysis, queer/trans/feminist praxis, decolonial and anti-racist praxis, affect theory, and cultural sustainability as they pertain to teaching and learning in English education. At the interface of critical, queer, and decolonial theory and practice, I seek to explore conditions for (re)imagining more socially just practice in curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment with (student) teachers and teacher educators. While I focus on (a)gender and (a)sexual diversity, anti-racism, and decoloniality in language and literacy education, I explore these as inherently entangled with a broad range of other social categories.

Currently, I work on two main projects that are located in and beyond Scotland:

  1. Queer Critical Literacies
  2. Critical Literacies & the Decolonial Turn: A Longitudinal Study in Higher/Teacher Education

Specific fields of study include: (queer) critical literacies; multimodality; critical applied linguistics; (a)gender & (a)sexual diversity; critical (multimodal) discourse analysis; social semiotics; and social justice education. 

Further interests include: culturally responsive/sustainable pedagogies, decoloniality, place-based pedagogies, anti-racism, creative methods, and intersectionality.

At Strathclyde, I teach on the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme, offering classes in critical literacies and multimodalities as well as a range of English methodology classes for secondary schooling educators. At Masters level, I also offer classes on research and teaching using critical (multimodal) discourse analysis, textual analysis, queer and decolonial methodologies, and (auto)ethnography. Within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, I sit on the Gender Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (GEDI) Committee. I also work closely with Strathclyde’s Student Union to support the development of queer and trans-inclusive and decolonial and anti-racist spaces and practices.  

Beyond Strathclyde, I am an active member of the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) as a co-convener of the Critical Literacy Special Interest Group (SIG)UKLA Regional Representative for West Scotland, and co-convener of the UKLA’s Publicity & Communications Committee. I am also a member of The Anti-Racist Educator, a collective of educational stakeholders engaging in critical and anti-racist education, as well as being a member of the Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce working group at national level. 

Recently, my colleagues (from a range of universities across the United States, New Zealand, and the UK) and I were appointed as co-editors of The Reading Teacher Journal (a Wiley publication for the International Literacy Association). 

I hold a Bachelor of Education degree (specialising in English Education in secondary and further education & training contexts), a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Applied English Language Studies, and a PhD in Applied Language & Literacy Education. My PhD investigated how critical literacy could be used to engage student teachers with issues related to (a)gender & (a)sexual  diversity in South Africa.

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Professional Activities

United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) (External organisation)
European Conference on Educational Research
Scottish Book Trust - Book Discovery: Decolonising the curriculum through texts (Secondary)
Queering the Politics of Pronouns
Helen Adam
Finding, framing, focus: Making sense of photographs through critical visual literacies
Invited speaker

More professional activities


Queer Critical Literacies
Govender, Navan N (Principal Investigator)
(A)gender and (a)sexual diversity are often viewed as taboo and controversial topics in education, sparking resistance from some teachers, students, and communities to engage with these important topics. Additionally, critical approaches to teaching these topics in schools and universities are still emerging, with many educators feeling uncertain of how to frame discussions and lessons, especially in contexts of widespread discrimination against gender and sexual minorities. In this chapter, we build on a tradition of critical literacies and queer theory to develop a conceptual framework for queer critical literacies (QCL) as an approach to teaching topics of (a)gender and (a)sexual diversity. We review how various educators have approached QCL in their classrooms by guiding their students to practise what we identify as five forms of questioning, namely questioning representation, reading practices, the policing of (a)gender and (a)sexuality, knowledge systems, and self. Finally, we offer a pedagogical tool for doing QCL that can assist educators in their practice. The questions we offer allow educators and students to dialogically do the work of identification, deconstruction, disruption, and transformation in contextually relevant ways. Our framework of QCL queers the reading of texts and bodies, foregrounds queer identities and non-normative gender expression, and challenges heterosexism, patriarchy, and cisnormativity in language, texts, institutions, and everyday practices.

Finding a Place for Critical Literacies in Scotland
Govender, Navan N (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021
Ethnodrama and Accessibility: International LGBTIQ+ Research Sharing
Humphrey, Harvey (Principal Investigator) Taylor, Yvette (Co-investigator) Govender, Navan N (Co-investigator)
HASS KE Small Grant Funding: £4860
17-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2022
Critical Literacies & the Decolonial Turn
Govender, Navan N (Principal Investigator)
Both as an instrument and beneficiary of colonialism as part of the British empire, as well as a victim of colonisation, Scotland represents the tenuous negotiations of identity with history, politics and power. While moves have been made in education to regain a Scottish identity through the implementation of Scots language and Scottish literature in the English curriculum, questions about criticality and (de)colonisation still remain relatively unheard (Priestly & Hume, 2010; Priestley, 2018). This has implications for how policy can be interpreted and implemented. Through a critical analysis, I explore how Scottish educational policy on English language and literacy constructs criticality and notions of (de)colonialism, if at all, and measure the emergent themes against critical approaches to teaching and learning as well as decolonisation. I then consider the role of critical literacies as a means for transformative social-semiotic action and interaction in the decolonisation of English language and literacy education.
Critical Transmodal Pedagogies
Govender, Navan N (Principal Investigator)
This paper explores how student teachers navigated moving between different modes of representation
from written text to image. This enabled some students to play with genre conventions, rethink
the relationship between word and image, and explore multimodality in interesting ways. Working at the
intersection of Kress’ work on Multimodality, Newfield’s transmodal moment and the critical literacy
project, I designed and implemented a course for English secondary education in one school of education
in South Africa. Firstly, this article outlines the course’s aims and assessment to consider how multimodality
might feature in a unit of work for student teachers. Specific focus is given to the final assessment
task that required students to make a ‘transmodal shift’ from linguistic to visual-linguistic; from written
narrative to multimodal storytelling. Secondly, a critical multimodal discourse analysis of students’ visual
narratives is applied to explore how critical transmodality enabled some student teachers to imagine
beyond traditional narrative structures and explore multimodal semiotic resources in innovative ways,
relevant to the secondary English classroom. Finally, I conclude by considering the implications of multimodal
semiotic play for both research and classroom practice in language and literacy education, including
assessment, the value of non-linguistic modes, and genre as a construct of power.
01-Jan-2017 - 01-Jan-2019
Negotiating the Gendered Representation of Sexualties through Critical Literacy
Govender, Navan N (Principal Investigator)
The conflations of sex and gender, and then gender and sexual identity in representation becomes problematic in a context where homophobic discourses and violence still persist, despite South Africa’s progressive constitution. Therefore, this study focuses on the implications of the conflations between sex, gender and sexuality for education.
Using literature on theories of power, sex, gender and sexuality, as well as critical literacy, I have designed a critically aware educational workbook that confronts issues of sex, gender and sexuality. Because no text is neutral, this workbook and the process of its production are critically reflected upon and scrutinised in order to understand how critically aware educational materials can be produced. The workbook is then implemented in a critical literacy course for pre-service student teachers at a university in Johannesburg. In these lectures, the workbook is used to deconstruct patriarchal and heteronormative order in the attempt to understand how effective the workbook is, and the responses that participating students give in relation to texts and activities in class. These responses are recorded through field notes and notebooks, wherein students complete in-class activities, and have revealed the complexities involved in reimagining sex, gender and sexuality as socially loaded concepts and its impact on language use in the classroom. Finally, because critical literacy advocates (re)design practice, students are given a task to design their own educational materials. These are then critically analysed in order to consider how students’ design trends and ‘evaluations’ of the course show their changing understandings of sex, gender, sexuality and the conflations between them, or how they remain the same.
Throughout this thesis, I argue the need for critical literacy in education, across learning areas and grades. Specifically, I argue for a critical literacy that is unafraid to deal with controversial issues and difficult conversations, as well as a practice that uses subversive texts and diversity as resources for teaching and learning.
01-Jan-2013 - 30-Jan-2014

More projects

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Dr Navan Govender

Email: navan.govender@strath.ac.uk
Tel: Unlisted