Alice S. Lee

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gloria Park, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.


This dissertation explores the identity enactments (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) of 14 multilingual university writing center tutors and multilingual student writers who use English and Putonghua to negotiate their interactions. The study is situated within sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and uses ethnographic methods such as observation, interviews, and conversation analysis to more fully describe the participants’ writing center tutorial interactions. The research site is in Macao, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Macao’s postcolonial past and neocolonial present help shape the discourses that are present at the research site.

The study adds to the growing body of descriptive knowledge on how identity and interaction influence multilingual language users in various contexts using an identity approach (Norton & McKinney, 2011). A total of eight writing center tutorial sessions were recorded and analyzed, followed by 16 playback interviews with individual participants. Results illustrate how the participants’ social worlds and other macro contexts impact the micro context of a writing center tutorial session. Results also showcase the participants’ full range of negotiation strategies as they engage with each other in goal-oriented institutional talk (Heritage & Clayman, 2010). Through the tutorial sessions and playback interviews, the study documents the complex nature of intertextuality (Bakhtin, 1981). Lastly, results demonstrate the range of tutorial strategies used to meet the needs of the multilingual student writers who had varying levels of English language proficiency. The analysis conducted in this study sheds more light on how identities emerge through interaction and how interlocutors position themselves and each other through discourse. Suggestions for how this descriptive knowledge can be applied practically in multilingual writing centers, in multilingual language learning classrooms, and in composition classrooms are offered.