Visual Representations of Indigenous Cultures in Norwegian EFL Textbooks

  • Cecilie Waallann Brown
  • Jena L. Habegger-Conti Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
Keywords: EFL, visual literacy, intercultural competence, indigenous peoples, images, textbooks


This article presents a summary of research conducted on the visual representation of indigenous cultures in four English textbooks produced for lower secondary schools with the aim of investigating the extent to which images of indigenous people contribute to, or contradict, the general cultural aims of the English language learning curriculum in Norway. Over 800 textbook images were analyzed using the methods of visual content analysis and semiotic image analysis. A qualitative analysis of two photomontages also provides a more holistic approach to the study and helps to more clearly explain the quantitative results. The results from the research show a strong trend to focus on traditional aspects of indigenous people, a tendency to represent indigenous people in a lower position of power than the viewer, and to distance the viewer. Comparatively, the images of white people more frequently invite the viewer to interact and empathize with the participants. Consequently, the research concludes that the images in the four EFL textbooks analyzed are, to a large degree, potential carries of ideologies in direct contradiction to the general cultural aims of English language learning in Norway. The implications of these findings are that images and how they position readers should be a part of EFL teaching.

Author Biographies

Cecilie Waallann Brown
Cecilie Waallann Brown is a doctoral fellow in English at the University of Stavanger where she is researching intercultural competence and visual literacy in the ESL classroom.
Jena L. Habegger-Conti, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Jena Habegger-Conti is Associate Professor of English Literature, Culture and Didactics at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

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