Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in English Teaching: Practice & Critique Vol. 21 No. 3, 2022, pp. 225-237.



Copyright © 2022 Emerald Publishing Limited. Used by permission.


Purpose—In an editorial introduction essay for the special issue on Religion, Literacies, and English Education in Global Dialogue, the editors frame papers in the special issue in dialogue with previous scholarly literature around three central lines of inquiry: How do children, youth and families navigate relationships among religion, spirituality, language and literacy? What challenges are faced by language and literacy teachers and teacher educators around the globe who seek to respond to diverse religious and spiritual perspectives in their work? And what opportunities do teachers seize or create toward this end? How are developments of language and literacy theory, policy, curriculum and ritual entangled with race and religion?

Design/methodology/approach—Taking an essayist, humanistic approach, this paper summarizes, interprets and comments on previous scholarly works to frame the articles published in the special issue “Religion, Literacies, and English Education in Global Dialogue” in relation to the field and in relation to one another.

Findings—Denise Dávila, Matthew Deroo and Ilhan Mohamud reveal the relationships young people and families forge and navigate among spiritual literacies and literatures, digital technologies and ethnic identities. Heidi Hadley, Jennifer Wargo and Erin McNeill illuminate how teachers’ vocations, as well as their pedagogical goals and curricular artifacts, can become deeply entangled with religious and spiritual sensemaking. Kasun Gajasinghe and Priyanka Jayakodi expand perspectives on both the ritualization and racialization of religion through nationalist policies surrounding national anthem performances in Sri Lanka. Anne Whitney and Suresh Canagarajah discuss how spiritual commitments, communities and experiences interact with their scholarly trajectories.

Research limitations/implications—The essay concludes with a discussion of scholarly capacity building that may be needed for conducting research on religion and spirituality in relation to languages, literacies and English education on a global scale.

Practical implications—The second section of the essay discusses challenges faced by language and literacy teachers and teacher educators around the globe who seek to integrate diverse religious and spiritual perspectives into their work. It foregrounds how many teachers and teacher educators work within contexts where ethnoreligious nationalism is on the rise. It highlights the need for language and literacy educators to develop curiosity and basic knowledge about diverse religions. Further it calls for teacher educators to engage with teacher candidates’ religious identities and sense-making.

Social implications—Because it considers religious and spiritual sense-making in relation to language and literacy education, the social implications of this work are significant and wide-reaching. For examples, the paper questions the conceit of secularism within education, pushing readers to consider their own spiritual and religious identifications and influences when they work across religious differences.

Originality/value—This paper identifies, interprets and assesses current threads of work on religious and spiritual sense-making within scholarship on languages, literacies and English education.