Didactic analysis of the postmethod condition of B. Kumaravadivelu:
eclecticism and complex didactics of languages and-cultures
Bala Kumaravadivelu Mahwah (henceforth "B.K."), a long-time professor at San Jose State University in California, gained international recognition in 1994 with an article entitled "The Postmethod Condition: Emerging Strategies for Second/Foreign Language Teaching," published in TESOL Quarterly (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), a widely read journal for teachers of English as a foreign language around the world. In this article, and in his subsequent works, he criticizes all methodologies as being unsuitable for local cultures. His main target is the communicative approach, dominant in international EFL teaching, as an instrument for perpetuating American colonialism, as well as methodological eclecticism, which he considers still dependent on constituted methodologies. Instead, he promotes the construction by teachers of coherent sets of strategies theorized by themselves from their own situated practices.
In this long article of 40 pages, I study the evolution of B.K.'s work during his career by means of several personal tools of analysis: the different forms of eclecticism, and their logics; the different methodological matrices available; the methodological, didactical and didactological perspectives of a "complex didactics of language-cultures"; the models as indispensable interfaces between practices and theories; the multi- and pluri-methodological approaches; the characteristics of the communication paradigm; the opposition between the optimization-substitution paradigm and the adaptation-addition paradigm.
Although I share B.K.'s main aim, which is to give power back to teachers in the field, by considering them as researchers of their own environments and practices, as well as many of his criticisms of the dominant constituted methodologies, including the communicative approach, I explain in this article my disagreement with some of his analyses and proposals, which suffer in my opinion from two important contradictions: he promotes situated modes of teaching-learning, but he builds his proposals on a single problematic of reference (the effects of the implementation of the communicative approach in the teaching of international English in Third World countries); he denounces the perverse effects of the global coherences of the constituted methodologies, but he promotes the construction by the teachers themselves of their own methodological coherences. It will not be surprising, finally, that I point out in B.K.'s observations, analyses, and proposals, all the problems generated by the fact that he never situates himself within the framework of a didactic of languages-cultures constituted as an autonomous discipline.