Doctoral Dissertation: Speaking my Language and Being Beautiful – Decolonizing Indigenous Language Education in the Ryukyus with a Special Reference to Sámi Language Revitalization


"I was never ‘indigenous’ until I studied at university and read about my home islands and my own languages in English.” This is how Madoka Hammine starts her doctoral thesis, in which she explores the meaning of indigeneity based on her experiences of growing up in the Ryukyus in Japan and on her experiences outside the indigenous language community. Hammine’s doctoral research on indigenous language revitalization opened a door for her to tell other people about herself, to reconnect with her heritage, to learn about the international understanding of indigeneity, and to reevaluate the possibilities of her own community.

Based on her fieldwork both in Finland and in Japan, she argues that revitalization should be addressed from the viewpoint of indigenous communities. It should also be discussed as a source of opportunities instead of a topic of research on a language that has been given, often by outsiders, the status of being endangered. According to the author, it was higher education that eventually gave her an indigenous identity, and the power of critical education is in fact discussed throughout her thesis.

The principal result of this study was that there is a need to decolonize language education from within. This, in turn, indicated that the following issues need to be addressed in order to facilitate indigenous language education: instructors’ lack of confidence and self-esteem as teachers (language attitudes), the unconscious richness of indigenous language speakers (language practice), and invisible language policy (language management).

The research produced a new model of decolonizing language education from within that could also be implemented in other indigenous language contexts around the world. Future research on the topic relates not only to indigenous but also to non-indigenous people, enabling people to speak their language and be beautiful at the same time.

The purpose of this doctoral research was to investigate situations of indigenous language teaching and learning and to find better ways to embrace multilingualism in indigenous language communities. The study focused on teachers and learners of indigenous languages through participatory, community-based research methods within a larger framework of Indigenous research methodology. The research material consisted of policy documents as well as data gathered during two fieldwork periods both in Finnish Lapland and in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands.

Information on the defense:

With the permission of the Faculty of Education of the University of Lapland, Madoka Hammine defends her dissertation Speaking My Language and Being Beautiful: Decolonizing Indigenous Language Education in the Ryukyus with a Special Reference to Sámi Language Revitalization, on 28th February 2020 at 12 noon in Auditorium 3. The opponent is Professor Fred Dervin from the University of Helsinki and the Custos is Professor Taija Turunen from the University of Lapland.

It is possible to follow the academic dissertation online:

Information on the candidate:

Madoka Hammine has completed a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics with TESOL at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She has taught languages both in Europe and in Japan before she joined the Faculty of Education at University of Lapland in 2016 and started her independent research on indigenous languages and language revitalization. She also joined Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, with Professor Patrick Heinrich as her external supervisor. Her publications focus on the Yaeyaman language, multilingualism, teachers’ identity development, and indigenous languages. She will be joining Meio University in Okinawa, Japan, as of April 2020 as an associate professor for the Faculty of International Studies.

Additional information:

Madoka Hammine or

Information on the publication:

ISBN 978-952-337-194-1
ISSN 1796-6310
Rovaniemi: University of Lapland 2020, Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 277