Catherine Prendergast is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Literacy and Racial Justice: The Politics of Learning after Brown v. Board of Education.
Many developing countries have little choice but to “buy into English” as a path to ideological and material betterment. Based on extensive fieldwork in Slovakia, Prendergast assembles a rich ethnographic study that records the thoughts, aspirations, and concerns of Slovak nationals, language instructors, journalists, and textbook authors who contend with the increasing importance of English to their rapidly evolving world. She reveals how the use of English in everyday life has becomes suffused with the terms of the knowledge and information economy, where language is manipulated for power and profit. Buying into English presents an astute analysis of the factors that have made English so prominent and yet so elusive, and a deconstruction of the myth of guaranteed viability for new states and economies through English.