Canagarajah, Suresh. Language Incompetence: Learning to Communicate through Cancer, Disability, and Anomalous Embodiment. London: Routledge, 2022. Pp. xv+220.
This book is framed as a memoir of the author’s journey through a cancer diagnosis and resulting impairments, as he continued his teaching and research activities during and after medical procedures. The narrative weaves together theoretical debates, textual analyses, and ethnographic data from communicative practices to redefine language competence.
The book demonstrates:
While language competence was traditionally defined as mentally internalized grammatical knowledge for individual mastery of communication, this book demonstrates the need for distributed, ethical, and embodied practice.
The book is intended for graduate students and researchers in language and literacy studies. It would interest scholars outside these disciplines to understand what language studies can offer to address the role of disabilities, impairments, and debilities in embodied communication and thinking. In the context of the global pandemic, compounded by environmental catastrophes and structural injustices which disproportionately affect marginalized communities, the book helps readers treat human vulnerability as the starting point for ethical social relations, strategic communication, and transformative education.