Literacy and the Politics of Representation: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Literacy and the Politics of Representation

1st Edition

By Mary Hamilton


178 pages

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Literacy is a key indicator for comparing individuals and nations in contemporary society. It is central to public debates about the nature of the public sphere, economic markets, citizenship and self-governance.

Literacy and the Politics of Representation aims to uncover the constructed nature of public understandings of literacy by examining detailed examples of how literacy is represented in a range of public contexts. It looks at the ways in which knowledge about literacy is created and distributed, the location and relative power of the knowledge-makers, and examines the different semiotic resources used in such representations: images and metaphors, numerical and statistical models, and textual narratives and how they are related to one another.

The book focuses on the UK from 1970 to the present, but includes a range of international comparisons and examples. In addition, exemplar chapters offer a model of analysis that can be used to deconstruct the representations of social policy issues.

This book is vital reading for postgraduate students in the areas of education studies, literacy, discourse analysis and multimodality.


'Mary Hamilton brings to the project of refining our understanding of literacy and challenging simplistic assumptions, her own deeper analysis of policy, her experience of teaching and learning practices in adult literacy in the UK and also her study of popular media representations of literacy. Essential reading not only for those still bound up in the popular imagination about literacy but also for those who have been working in the field but can still benefit from such an account by a seasoned writer capable of bringing together different fields, different theories, different ‘discourses of the imagination’.'

Brian Street, Emeritus Professor, King's College London, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Part I: Constructing Imaginaries Using Different Semiotic Resources 2. Literacy by Numbers 3. Visualising Literacy 4. The Powers of Voice Part II Domains of Imagination 5. Governing Literacy 6. Literacy in the News 7. Speaking from Experience 8. Conclusion

About the Author

Mary Hamilton is Professor of Adult Learning and Literacy, co-director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning and Associate Director of the Literacy Research Centre at Lancaster University, UK.

She has written extensively on policy, practice and everyday learning in adult literacy and is co-author of a number of books including Local Literacies (reissued 2012, Routledge); Powerful Literacies (with Jim Crowther and Lynn Tett) and Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy: A Critical History (with Yvonne Hillier).

About the Series


This series showcases innovative research and scholarship in the field of Literacy Studies.

Literacy practices are changing rapidly in contemporary society in response to broad social, economic and technological changes: in education, the workplace, the media and in everyday life. The Literacies series reflects the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of research into reading and writing. The series aims to publish studies which consider literacy as a social practice. Work in this field has been developed and drawn together to provide books that are accessible, interdisciplinary and international in scope, covering a wide range of social and institutional contexts.  

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General