Languages, Symbolic Power and Multidimensional Poverty in the Context of Pakistan


  • Tayyaba Tamim Department of Social Sciences, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Research and Economics, Lahore School of Economics



Languages; Symbolic power; Education; Inequality and Poverty; Bourdieu; Capability approach


This paper engages with the question of languages in education and language policy in the multilingual context of Pakistan, from the perspective of its impact on multidimensional poverty. Poverty is interpreted as ‘capability deprivation’ following Amertya Sen’s capability approach, while Bourdieu’s social critical theory inform the analysis. The paper is based on findings from a 3-year qualitative study, funded by Research Consortium on Educational Outcomes and Poverty (RECOUP). The methods of data collection included participant observation, documentary analysis and interview data from 16 cases of private and government school graduates, in two provinces. Each case comprised of a final-year secondary school student and his/ her same sex 5-6 year older sibling. The findings reveal that the symbolic power of English in the country, in contrast to its restricted access, and the concurrent devaluation of the local linguistic capital reinforced the structures that nest inequality and poverty. This restrained the agency and of the already socioeconomically disadvantaged government school participants to achieve valued goals as inequality was unleashed in the multiple dimensions of their lives: cognitive, social, affective, economic, and physical. The paper argues for more inclusive language policies and languages in education.




How to Cite

Tamim, T. (2017). Languages, Symbolic Power and Multidimensional Poverty in the Context of Pakistan. European Journal of Language and Literature, 3(3), 70–79.