Dr Naomi Wells

Contact details

Dr Naomi Wells
BA Spanish and Italian (Leeds 2007), MA by Research (Leeds 2009), PhD (Leeds 2013), PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (University of London 2020)
Lecturer in Italian and Spanish with Digital Humanities
Institute of Modern Languages Research
Institute of Modern Languages Research School of Advanced Study University of London Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 7862 8766
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Culture, Digital resources, Digitisation, Language and Literature (Italian), Language and Literature (Spanish)
Research keywords:
Digital Humanities, Multilingualism, Transnationalism, Ethnography, Cultures of Migration and Mobility, Language Ideologies and Policies
Europe, South America
Summary of research interests and expertise:

My current research focuses on the internet and social media, particularly in relation to online multilingualism, and contemporary and archived web content produced by and for migrant communities. My research draws on a range of methods and approaches such as digital discourse analysis and digital ethnography, and sits at the intersection of fields including digital humanities, applied and sociolinguistics, and translation and cultural studies. While my primary focus and expertise is in relation to Spanish- and Italian-speaking communities and contexts, I have a broader interest in cross-languages digital research and am joint editor of the Digital Modern Languages section of Modern Languages Open. Previous research focused on migration, multilingualism, language policy and linguistic minorities in Spanish- and Italian-speaking contexts, and I have conducted fieldwork in Spain, Italy, Chile, and the UK. I am interested in supervising research in the areas of: social media and internet research, (online) multilingualism, cultures of migration and diaspora studies, Hispanic and Italian Studies, minority and regional languages, (digital) discourse analysis and (digital) ethnography.

Spoken Written
French Intermediate Intermediate
Spanish Fluent Fluent
Italian Fluent Fluent
Other: Beginner's Arabic; Beginner's Catalan
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
17-Dec-2021 Introduction: Digital Modern Languages Launch Issue

Journal articles

Spence, P and Wells, N 2021 Introduction: Digital Modern Languages Launch Issue. Modern Languages Open, 2021(1): 17 pp. 1–4.

01-Jul-2021 Exploring Online Diasporas: London’s French and Latin American Communities in the UK Web Archive


With S. Huc-Hepher. ‘Exploring online diasporas: London’s French and Latin American communities in the UK Web Archive’. In: Daniel Gomes, Elena Demidova, Jane Winters and Thomas Risse, eds. The past web: Exploring web archives. Springer, pp. 189-201.

01-Dec-2020 Porteña identity and Italianità: Language, materiality and transcultural memory in Valparaíso’s Italian community


In Charles Burdett, Loredana Polezzi and Barbara Spadaro, eds. Transcultural Italies: Mobility, memory and translation. Liverpool University Press.

20-Sep-2020 Language and transgenerational identity in Valparaíso’s Italian community: Methodological and theoretical reflections


In Clare Mar-Molinero, ed. Researching language in superdiverse urban contexts: Exploring methodological and theoretical concepts, Multilingual Matters, pp.131-158.

17-Jul-2020 Transnational flows and translanguaging repertoires: Exploring multilingualism and migration in contemporary Italy


In Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi, eds. Transnational Italian Studies, Liverpool University Press, pp. 87-106.

11-Nov-2018 Translanguaging and Collaborative Creative Practices: Communication and Performance in an Intercultural Theatre Group


In Gerardo Mazzaferro, ed. Translanguaging as Everyday Practice, Springer. 

01-Apr-2016 The Territorial Principle: Language Rights and Linguistic Minorities in Spain and Italy


In Gill Valentine and Ulrike Vieten, eds. Cartographies of Difference: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Living with Difference. New Visions of the Cosmopolitan Series. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 157-82.

01-Jan-2012 Multilinguismo nello stato-nazione: lingua e identità sarda all’interno dello stato italiano (1992-2010)


 In Silvia Contarini, Margherita Marras and Giuliana Pias, eds. L’identità sarda del XXI secolo: tra globale, locale e postcoloniale. Nuoro: Il Maestrale, pp. 155-70.

24-Oct-2011 The Linguistic Capital of Contested Languages: The Centre-Left and Regional Languages in Asturias and the Veneto, 1998-2008

Journal articles

Language Problems and Language Planning, 32(2) (2011), 117-38

Publications available on SAS-space:

Date Details
Jul-2018 State recognition for ‘contested languages’: a comparative study of Sardinian and Asturian, 1992–2010


While the idea of a named language as a separate and discrete identity is a political and social construct, in the cases of Sardinian and Asturian doubts over their respective ‘languageness’ have real material consequences, particularly in relation to language policy decisions at the state level. The Asturian example highlights how its lack of official status means that it is either ignored or subjected to repeated challenges to its status as a language variety deserving of recognition and support, reflecting how ‘official language’ in the Spanish context is often understood in practice as synonymous with the theoretically broader category of ‘language’. In contrast, the recent state recognition of Sardinian speakers as a linguistic minority in Italy (Law 482/1999) illustrates how legal recognition served to overcome existing obstacles to the implementation of regional language policy measures. At the same time, the limited subsequent effects of this Law, particularly in the sphere of education, are a reminder of the shortcomings of top-down policies which fail to engage with the local language practices and attitudes of the communities of speakers recognized. The contrastive focus of this article thus acknowledges the continued material consequences of top-down language classification, while highlighting its inadequacies as a language policy mechanism which reinforces artificial distinctions between speech varieties and speakers deserving of recognition.

Jan-2019 Ethnography and Modern Languages


While rarely explicitly recognized in our disciplinary frameworks, the openness and curiosity on which Modern Languages in the UK is founded are, in many ways, ethnographic impulses. Ethnographic theories and practices can be transformative in relation to the undergraduate curriculum, providing an unparalleled model for experiential and holistic approaches to language and cultural learning. As a form of emplaced and embodied knowledge production, ethnography promotes greater reflexivity on our geographical and historical locations as researchers, and on the languages and cultures through which we engage. An ethnographic sensitivity encourages an openness to less hierarchical and hegemonic forms of knowledge, particularly when consciously seeking to invert the traditional colonial ethnographic project and envision instead more participatory and collaborative models of engagement. Modern Languages scholars are at the same time ideally placed to challenge a monolingual mindset and an insensitivity to language-related questions in existing ethnographic research located in cognate disciplines. For Modern Languages to embrace ethnography with credibility, we propose a series of recommendations to mobilize these new research and professional agendas.

Jan-2020 Emplaced and embodied encounters: methodological reflections on transcultural research in contexts of Italian migration


This article explores the practical, ethical, and epistemological issues which arise when carrying out and sharing research in contexts of Italian migration, highlighting how greater reflexivity on our own geographic and historical location as researchers can productively inform and shape our understanding of sites of contact, exchange and confrontation in relation to contemporary Italy. Specifically, we write as researchers informed by ethnographic theories and practices, and who through our research have engaged in emplaced and embodied cultural encounters in sites which are identifiable as both transcultural and Italian. Drawing on vignettes from research in Italy and the UK, the article highlights some of the particular contradictions, opportunities and responsibilities generated by our respective positions. We address how our positionings as white, English and female scholars located within nationally-defined Italian Studies structures have raised pertinent questions of power, privilege and voice, as we place our own biographies and bodies, themselves shaped by specific colonial, national and local histories, into critical dialogue with those on and with whom we research. Through a discussion of these ‘irresolvable tensions’ of our research, we seek to practically engage with the broader imperative of finding new ways of studying and writing culture.

Additional Publications

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:

Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community

 Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2017-Present

Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, 2014-2016

Available for doctoral supervision: Yes

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI)
Society for Latin America Studies (SLAS)
European Association of Digital Humanities (EADH)
International Association for the Study of Spanish in Society (SIS-EES)
Society for Italian Studies (SIS)
Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
16-Jun-2020 Disrupting Digital Monolingualism international workshop

Co-convenor of ‘Disrupting Digital Monolingualism: An international workshop on languages in critical digital theory and practice’, May 2020.

26-Jan-2020 British Academy’s UK-Levant (al-Mashriq) Knowledge Frontiers Symposium

Selected participant at the British Academy’s UK-Levant (al-Mashriq) Knowledge Frontiers Symposium on ‘Belonging’, Amman, 26-28 January 2020 (in partnership with the Council for British Research in the Levant).

05-Sep-2019 Plenary Speaker

Plenary presentation by M. Soledad Montañez and Naomi Wells ("Lemme hablar": Translanguaging Spaces and Latin American Community Engagement in London) at the Spanish in Society conference at the University of Edinburgh.

19-Jun-2019 Conference panel: Analysing and archiving the web presence of migrant communities in the web archives of the Netherlands and the UK

Panel at the RESAW (a Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials) conference at the University of Amsterdam. Speakers: Saskia Huc-Hepher, Kees Teszelszky and Naomi Wells.

06-Jun-2019 Digital Diasporas: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

International conference organised as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community'

21-May-2019 Digital Modern Languages seminar series

The Digital Modern Languages seminar series brings together research and teaching in Modern Languages which engages with digital culture, media and technologies. The series is convened by Paul Spence (King’s College London) and Naomi Wells (Institute of Modern Languages Research).’ It was launched in May 2019 as part of the AHRC-funded Open World Research Initiative, and is supported by the Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community and Language Acts and Worldmaking projects, and by the AHRC Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages (Janice Carruthers).

04-Apr-2019 Conference panel: Cross-Language Dynamics: Translingual Communities between Latin America and the UK

A panel on the work of the AHRC-funded 'Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community' project at the Society of Latin American Studies (UK) conference at the University of Leicester. Speakers: Francielle Carpenedo, M. Soledad Montañez, and Naomi Wells.

05-Dec-2018 Invited seminar

‘Translingual Communities and Digital Diasporas: Latin American Voices in the UK Web Archive’, invited seminar for the Modern Languages Research Seminar Series, University of Westminster

03-Nov-2018 Conference paper

‘Transnational Rootedness in Bologna and Valparaíso: The (Re)production of Collective and Individual Identities in Sites of Italian Migration’, Diaspore Italiane – Italy in Movement (A Symposium on Three Continents), John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (New York)

26-Mar-2018 Conference paper

 ‘Representation and digital diasporas: Latin American voices in the UK Web Archive’, Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI) 63rd Annual Conference, University of Leeds

22-Feb-2018 Invited speaker

‘Bridging the Archive and the Repertoire: London’s Latin Americans in the UK Web Archive’, Gerald Aylmer Seminar 2019: Digital and the Archive, The National Archives

07-Jul-2017 Invited speaker

'Mediating between home and school: Migrant cultural associations in Bologna and the teaching of the "mother language"', European experiences of 'good' language, 'bad language', and (the) standard language ideology in multilingual communities, past and present (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies project conference [AHRC Open World Research Initiative]), University of Nottingham.

04-Jul-2017 Conference paper (plenary panel)

 Fieldwork, impact and engagement: Reflections on ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages', Scontri e incontri: the dynamics of Italian transcultural exchanges (8th Biennial ACIS Conference), Monash Prato Centre.

03-Jun-2017 Invited speaker

'Language and transgenerational identity in Chile’s Italian community: Methodological and theoretical reflections', Researching language in the city: Exploring methodological and theoretical concepts (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies project conference [AHRC Open World Research Initiative]), Highfield House Hotel, Southampton.

01-Apr-2017 Conference paper

'Language ideologies and identity in Chile's Italian community', SiS2017: Language ideologies in the Spanish-speaking world (8th International Conference of Hispanic Linguistics and 6th Biennial Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Spanish in Society [SIS-EES]), University of Southampton.

20-Mar-2017 Invited speaker

'Digital Humanities and Modern Languages: Researching and representing language communities in the UK Web Archive', Born-Digital Data for History and the Humanities: the challenges of collaborative research (Born-digital Big Data and Methods for History and the Humanities AHRC network workshop), University of Cambridge.

22-Sep-2016 Conference paper

‘Bridging Sociolinguistics and Cultural Studies: Linguistic and cultural practices in migrant cultural associations in Bologna’, 2nd International Conference on the Sociolinguistics of Immigration, Rapallo, Università degli Studi di Torino.

09-Sep-2016 Invited speaker

With Prof C. Burdett, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Re-framing the discipline’, Languages and Cultures in 21st Century Transnationality, Sheffield Hallam University.

06-Jul-2016 Conference paper

With Dr J. Burns, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Bridging experiences in research, practice and teaching’, Frameworks for Collaboration and Multilingualism Conference (8th Biennial joint LLAS, UCML, and AULC ‘Languages in Higher Education’ conference), University of Warwick.

15-Jun-2016 Conference paper

'Language as a Site of Empowerment and Solidarity: Migrant Cultural Associations in Bologna and the Teaching of the "Mother Language"', Sociolinguistics Symposium 21, Universidad de Murcia.

13-Jun-2016 Invited speaker

 With Prof D. Duncan and Prof L. Polezzi, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Transnationalizing creative practices’, Translation, Translanguaging and Creativity: A Translating Cultures Workshop, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study.

26-May-2016 Conference paper

‘From imitation to appropriation: Reshaping the Italian language in migrant and intercultural associations in Bologna, Italy’, New Plurilingual Pathways for Integration: Immigrants and Language Learning in the 21st Century (BAAL/Cambridge University Press seminar), Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

30-Apr-2016 Conference paper

'Transnational Cultural and Linguistic Practices in Migrant Cultural Associations in Bologna', Turning Points: Cultures of Transition, Transformation and Transmission In Italy (Society for Italian Studies Interim Conference), Trinity College Dublin.

13-Nov-2015 Invited speaker

With Prof L. Polezzi, ‘Working globally through multilingualism and translation’, Multilingualism in Practice in the University ESRC Seminar, University of Birmingham.

04-Nov-2015 Invited speaker

‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Negotiating linguistic and cultural diversity in contemporary Italy’, invited research seminar, School of Modern Languages, University of Leicester.

Other editing/publishing activities:

Date Details
2019 Digital Modern Languages Section on Modern Languages Open

Inaugural Section Editor (with Paul Spence) for the Digital Modern Languages Section on the Modern Languages Open peer-reviewed Open Access platform (Liverpool University Press).

Consultancy & Media
Available for consultancy:
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