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Classrooms, for me, are often little sparks of optimism that get lost in the despair and division that haunt many people today. While I resist discourses that treat education as the solution to all of our problems, I do believe that schools are essential to changing social dynamics and creating a more informed and empathetic society. Since many young people spend more time at school than at home, teachers play an important role not only in the process of learning content like literature and science, but are also crucial to the sentimental and moral education of young people, which I consider just as important (if not more important) than learning to add and subtract fractions.
The articles we’ve read this week engage in this role of teachers in a variety of ways through classroom discourse, using analytical tools of discourse analysis to reveal underlying process of distinction within the classroom. García-Sánchez’s (2016) piece is particularly telling in this regard. She shows the ways in which methods of inclusion and participation can, in fact, produce exactly the opposite effect, albeit unintentional (306). In the Spanish classroom she researches, she finds that Moroccan and Roma students are marked as the outsiders through a process of tokenization and hybridity erasure (293). Betsy Rymes (2016) explains how classroom discourses are sections of, and in part controlled by, larger social contexts and that critical reflection and individual agency are potential methods to tinker with the machinery of discourse (49). Rymes advocates for a repertoire approach to work towards denaturalizing the relationship between perceived identity categories and intellectual competence. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), Freire provides us with ways to develop critical methodologies to work towards combatting these naturalized sociopolitical dynamics.
To be critical of these critical approaches, I am not particularly convinced that simply adopting a repertoire approach will challenge deeply engrained ideologies of race, gender, class, and their relationship to educational competence. This is one aspect of a process that requires a long, difficult, intentional, and sometimes painful process of reflection, reading, and discussion, which relies on two aspects of life that most teachers do not have: time and resources. While I agree with the intent of the article and believe in its potential to make educators more aware of how they can reproduce established and naturalized inequalities, I question its effectiveness because of its idealization of the reality of teachers’ lives and schedules. Like many attempts for education reform, the implementation becomes unfeasible due to complete lack of attention to the resources required for something like these approaches to work. Furthermore, it seems important to be wary of the power we place on language; as we’ve seen in Rosa & Flores’ (2017) work, language use is simply one aspect of a larger process of construction of social inequalities. Like education, language cannot be, and we shouldn’t think of it as, the solution to all of our problems; rather, we need to always keep in mind the historical and colonial constructions of the language use that reproduces marginalizing discourses.
What kind of student were you in school? The “quiet one?” The “know-it-all?” The “bad kid?”
Many people who devote themselves to education believe that all children are unique individuals, and hope that schooling helps each one realize his/her/their full potential. At the same time, the highly-structured nature of traditional schooling (what Freire (2000) called “banking education”) expects conformity to standards, and a key product of that type of schooling is a host of labels for those who don’t “fit” — “English Language Learner,” “Student with Interrupted Formal Education,” “At Risk.” These labels can endure long after a student leaves school, shaping their sense-of-self and identities long after they leave school.
Betsy Rymes’ book, Classroom Discourse Analysis, spells out a framework for analyzing classroom talk and discourse, in recognition of the ways that the language used by students and teachers can both heighten normative expectations for student identities and subjectivities in classrooms, and subvert them. While her book might be of interest to educational researchers, Rymes’ audience for this book is primarily teachers. She argues that if teachers pay special attention to how they and their students’ language use is shaped by (1) social context in and out of the classroom, (2) interactional contexts (e.g. how teachers pose questions, how they listen and facilitate dialogue), and (3) the ways they and their students exercise agency, they stand a better chance at understanding the totality of their students’ communicative repertoires, rather than making snap judgments about what “kind of” student someone is based on a superficial read of a student at one moment in time. Rymes argues that through this approach to analysis, teachers might promote learning, given that “classroom talk and interaction… give voice to a wide range of communication, augmenting the repertoires of everyone in the room. In this way, a classroom develops as a learning community not by eliminating elements from children’s repertoires but by developing overlap and building common ground” (Rymes, 2016, p. 20).
I’ve found Rymes’ framework to be a useful took for reflecting on classroom discourse in one of the middle school classrooms where I do my field work. In this site, there are a couple of boys who have been positioned at the margins of the classroom. A teacher’s first impulse might be to view all of those ways these students don’t fit the norm: They are older than your average 7th graders, have “low literacy,” are consistently sent to the principal’s office, are often present for just a few minutes of the class period, and use their phones or engage in side conversations. Rymes’ discourse analysis framework would encourage teachers to go beyond these momentary impressions to take a multi-level view — considering how various factors about the students (their ages, race, gender) might shape how their discourse practices (which include their speech, but also other ways they communicate — their clothing, they postures, etc) get interpreted by teachers and administrators at the school. Teachers might take a closer look at the kinds of questions they ask these students, the ways they expect them to engage, and provide more opportunities for student voice and agency. Once teachers complete this analysis, Rymes’ work advises teachers to focus on what they can control — their reactions and responses to students, how they “make the weather” in their classroom.
This is an empowering stance for a teacher. At the same time, there are a myriad of structural factors that contribute to why some students are / are positioned as disconnected from formal schooling, and discourse analysis can’t solve all of those issues. Taking a page from Freire’s book, it is my hope that if greater attention is paid to critical analysis of classroom discourse, teachers and students might be prompted to take action to shift the oppressive systems around them.
For some reason, Marco didn’t have permissions to post on our group site, so I’m posting on his behalf.
Raciolinguistics and I
This week we were tasked to look over White Racist Discourse in the U.S. — exploring Hill’s work on Mock Spanish, described as covert discursive practices used by Whites that may indicate a jocular stance and/or perpetuate negative stereotypes about “Spanish-speaking” populations (Hill, 2008). Rosa’s approach refutes Hill’s proposal on Mock Spanish by arguing that these linguistic practices are synonymous with race instead of analyzing the language just part of what constitutes an ethnoracial identity through the paradigm of Raciolinguistics. Being a heritage speaker myself, I have to agree.
I was born and raised in New York, a first generation child of Dominican parents and a heritage speaker of Spanish (which was spoken in the household) and otherwise English in the academic setting. If we go by the context of a “prestige dialect” and it being identifiable within the United States, try as I must to assimilate or become the ideal speaker of this dialect, racialization via my ethnic features will always prevail. I would be a Hispanic first, and an American second.
My mother comes from a small town in the Dominican Republic, Santiago Rodriguez. In my adolescence I would frequently visit with her to unite with relatives, friends, and embrace my native culture. Although the experiences were far from negative, I was never truly considered Dominican amongst my own family, friends, or the people in general. Other instances of racialization, but in this scenario, it was largely linguistic. “I did not sound like a Dominican” was the popular notion. My prosodic features, with a blend of my L1 and L2, deviated from what is the norm with Dominicans..and thus, I was American. Would this be able to change with time and effort?
During my time as an ESL teacher in Pan American International High School — the question of how I identify was quite popular among my students. They were overly curious as to, me being born and raised in the United States as a child of Dominican parents — how would I identify myself given the cultures made up a large part of who I am. My students, hailing from areas where it was primarily linguistic ideologies that defined a large part of who you were, I felt deserved that answer. I explained that I identified with both being American and Dominican, questions about the authenticity of the former brought up plenty of healthy debates which, I hope would help with their own ongoing constructions as immigrants to the United States.
When it comes to my own identity, as I’m sure it is the case with many other first generation Latinx — how I identify has always been in a sort of limbo. I am well aware I do not fit the standard description of an American, but I am. My linguistic features neither allow be to become truly Dominican either, but I also am. So I embrace the hybridity proudly, with definitions as to how I label myself being anything but static.
Ultimately, these experiences are examples of Raciolinguistic dynamics at play. Within the United States, my linguistic practices have little to no effect on my racial identity, for it will always be a constant factor regardless of dialectal preferences — my racial identity IS what I am. In the Dominican Republic (and to a larger extent the Latinx population), linguistic ideologies help shape a racial identities.
Hill, J. H. (2008). The everyday language of white racism. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Alim, H. S., Rickford, J. R., & Ball, A. F. (2016). Raciolinguistics: How language shapes our ideas about race. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Eighth Annual Hunter Undergraduate Linguistics and Language Studies Conference
Saturday, May 5th 9:30-5:00pm
Hunter West 3rd Floor Glass Cafeteria
9:30 – 10:00 BREAKFAST & COFFEE
Session 1, Communicating Gender
10:00 – 10:20
“Keyboard Smashing, Deciphered: How ‘Queer Twitter’ Communicates Identity in 140 Characters”
Erica Galluscio, Hunter College
10:20 – 10:40
“Outsiders in their Own Tongue: A French Feminist Perspective on Grammatical Gender”
Phoebe Harnish, Juniata College
10:40 – 11:00
“Performing Cuteness: A Study of Gender Dynamics in the Korean Language”
Hai Ri (Sophia) Jeon, New York University
11:00 – 11:20 BREAK
Session 2, Comparative Language Trends
11:20 – 11:40
“‘One Hand Clapping’: Understanding the Linguistic and Cultural Contexts of Kigo in Japanese and English Haiku in Translation”
Kimberly Martinez, Hunter College
12:00 – 12:20
“Sociolinguistic factors affecting tense variation in Singaporean speakers of English”
Wesley Leong, New York University
11:40 – 12:00
“A Comparative look at Alcozauca and Cuautipan Mixteco Deixis”
Jackeline Alvarez, Hunter College
12:20 – 1:20 LUNCH
Session 3, Speech Variation
1:20 – 1:40
“Modified Sinewave Speech and Tone Perception and Identification in Cantonese”
Sarah Feng, Brooklyn College
1:40 – 2:00
“How fo talk place in Hawaiian Creole English”
Harmony Graziano, Columbia University
2:00 – 2:20
“English Vowel Perception in Late Spanish-English Bilinguals”
Daniela Castillo, Queens College
2:20 – 2:40 BREAK
Session 4, Language and the Media: Stories We Tell
2:40 – 3:00
“Western Liberal Imaginaries of Muslim Women in the Opinion Section of the New York Times”
Safia Mahjebin, Hunter College
3:00 – 3:20
“The Art of Language Creation”
Arielle Crisostomo, Brooklyn College
3:20 – 3:40
“Raciolinguistics in the Poetry of Nayyirah Waheed”
Fatima Tariq, Hunter College
3:40 – 4:00 BREAK & SNACKS
4:00 – 5:00
“Strategies of Anti-Racism: Language, Ideology, Interaction”
Professor Elaine Chun, University of South Carolina
While I really appreciate Jane Hill’s work – especially the way her focus on linguistic practices adds nuance to the ‘structural racism versus personal bigotry’ dichotomy – I was somewhat troubled by her uncritical use of social categories, and therefore thought that Rosa’s critique was a helpful move forward. By incorporating race into his analysis and looking beyond Hill’s original focus on “historically Spanish-speaking populations”, Rosa shows how Mock Spanish itself has racializing effects, re-inscribing and further articulating the distinction between ‘White’ and ‘Latina/o’ (Rosa 2016, 69, quoting Hill 1998).
In this way, Rosa reminds us that we can’t take racial categories for granted, but he stops short of making the same claim about linguistic categories. Both Hill and Rosa (unreflexively) use named language categories, naturalizing arbitrary boundaries that themselves are products of racializing discourses. Particular words or pronunciations are labeled as Spanish or English, though they seem to be available to a wide range of people, regardless of racial status or so-called language dominance. This is standard practice in linguistic/sociolinguistic/linguistic anthropology research, but it weakens Rosa’s argument. This is most obvious when he describes Inverted Spanglish as “saying Spanish words in English”, which simultaneously emphasizes and blurs boundaries between languages, creating an ambivalence that hides the relationship between race and language that Rosa is trying to expose (74). But I am inspired by Rosa’s insistence on denaturalizing racial categories and think the same can be done with language. As Rosa reminds us, “language ideologies need not correspond to actual linguistic practices”, so ‘language’ cannot remain a stable variable in our analyses (69).
The ‘constructed-ness’ of named languages shines through in the nuanced and transgressive language play the students at NNHS engage in. These students defy linguistic boundaries, combining and layering supposedly disparate ‘languages’ and ‘varieties’ to articulate complex identities. But if we’re trying not to treat ‘language’ as a static entity, how can we understand what they’re doing? I think the concept of indexicality, which we discussed in class in relation to ‘crying racist’, can be of use. Indexicality helps us think of practices like Mock Spanish or Inverted Spanglish not as speaking one language or another, but as using forms/features that index certain identities and qualities. This reframes linguistic practice as a recursive process in which we draw on existing categories (including racial categories) but also further articulate/re-define/play with those categories.
Indexicality seems particularly relevant in an analysis of Mock Spanish and Inverted Spanglish in that they both involve some sort of ‘double indexicality’. Maybe there’s a real term for that, but what I mean is that linguistic forms are taken up and then modified to create new forms (but not so much that the original is unrecognizable) to establish a certain stance towards the originally indexed meaning and as this usage is enregistered, another level of indexical meaning is added (Agha 2005). How can such complexity be captured if we’re stuck with labels like ‘English’ and ‘Spanish’?
With these ideas in mind, I’m moved to destabilize the language categories I’ve been using in my own project. So far, I’ve been thinking about how different languages and varieties are incorporated (or not) in adult ESL, but how can I insist on the fluidity of ‘English’ if I’m treating languages as delimited entities? Instead, I’m thinking that I need to refocus my project on how ‘English’ is constructed in these spaces, paying attention to which practices are emphasized, which are excluded, and which are simply ignored, and how indexicality can help explain these moves.
What about you? Does denaturalizing social categories (like race and language) have any consequences for your work? Does it offer any new insights? Does it change your research questions?
Agha, A. (2005). Voice, footing. Enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 15(1): 38-59.
Rosa, J. (2016). From mock Spanish to inverted Spanish: Language ideologies and the racialization of Mexican and Puerto Rican youth in the United States. Racio-linguistics: How language shapes our ideas about race, 65-80.
Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2004). Language and identity. In A. Duranti (ed.) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Blackwell. https://cloudfront.escholarship.org/dist/prd/content/qt7198t0cr/qt7198t0cr.pdf
Shalini Shankar’s commentary on Dove soap commercial /http://linguisticanthropology.org/blog/2017/10/18/heres-the-rub-on-the-dove-skincare-ad/
Shankar’s book: Advertising Diversity, https://www.dukeupress.edu/Advertising-Diversityhttps://www.dukeupress.edu/Advertising-Diversity
Elaine Chun’s google scholar site: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yjXk9OEAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao
See also ch. 5 in Reyes and Wortham (2015) Discourse analysis across events (to be posted very soon).
Viral YouTube video: Angela Wallace’s rant on Asian students at UCLA:
I just reviewed a piece for the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology on a similar topic (title: Colorblind along the Color line: Racialized fractals, recursive oppositions, and control of meaning in developmental spaces)
The article posits that white students often police race talk in their alignments with the ideology of “colorblindness”.
The author writes that the ideology of “colorblindness” interprets explicit mention of race in addition to the more obvious racial slurs or White supremacist discourse, as racist and makes any discussion of race off-limits. The consequence is that white students are quick to label any transgression of this unspoken rule “racist” and to position such comments as an unwarranted preoccupation with race on behalf of people of color.
The author argues that racialized differentiation is recursively produced by these pre-adolescents, who are being socialized to reproduce the ideologies of colorblind racism and White privilege that dominate society and shape the lives of the actors within it – ensuring the position of White at the top and Color at the bottom.
In regards to your 2011 paper, would you talk a bit about your fieldwork?
Jane Hill who writes that “The theme of race is both everywhere and nowhere, consisting largely of silences, of the failure to be specifically anti-racist, of careful failure to notice racially-shaped phenomena” (Hill 2008, 47).
Your work suggests that it’s more than silence: students actively police – even if it’s in humorous ways – even unrelated mentions of the color term “black”. Is this policing of the ideology of colorblindness a way to suppress race talk or to provoke conversations about it?
Is “crying racist” a plea by students to talk about race because so many teachers don’t want to?
How can this kind of research reach teachers and be applied to their training? To what extent do you see that as part of your role as a researcher?
Regarding the methodology chapter, would you explain Silverstein’s metapgramatic regimentation? How can language regiment its own pragmatics? What is the difference between denotationally implicit and explicit metapragmatics? (p. 460).
Doing discourse analysis across events is potentially relevant to the work several students in this class are engaged in that involve processes like learning, identity formation, and socialization. To what extent is your analysis based on a single event (a within event analysis) or across events?
I challenge each of you to reflect on how you plan to incorporate context beyond the speech event itself and what discreet events and “cross event pathways” each of you could potentially analyze?
Sara’s work on translanguaging practices in computer science lessons;
Carmín’s study of the reactions of readers to the appointment of a female police superintendent and the ensuing debates over whether to use the -e or -a morphological gender marker for her title;
Kelsey’s study of language ideologies in an adult second language program,
Marcos’ study of sharing of political video content on social media, Ekaterina’s examination of constructions of community in Stuytown on Twitter
Andy’s examination of a Colombian-based internet forum visited and maintained by male clients of male-to-female transgender sex workers
Angie Waller’s analysis of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg responds to public outcry around privacy breaches using prophetic ethos to redirect discourse to the ambitious mission of his social media platform
Anthony’s study of religious indoctrination through radio shows for women under Franco in Spain,
Ariel’s work on cross-racial adoption and how parents navigate racial difference
Angie Pickens’ work on representations of the ongoing Oklahoma teachers’ strike looking teachers’ picket signs, public comments by legislators, and a Facebook group
Angela Reyes, Hunter College (English Dept.) and the Graduate Center (Anthropology), will be our class visitor on April 16th. The readings include a methodological piece about how to do discourse analysis across different events from the perspective of linguistic anthropology and another piece about the regimentation of racist discourse. In preparation for her talk, please post 1-2 questions about each article below. Please formulate your questions in narrative form and reference specific examples or phrases from the texts.
Angela Reyes (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2003) is Professor in the Department of English at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), and Doctoral Faculty in the at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She teaches courses on English linguistic structures and histories, discourse theory and analysis, linguistic anthropology, and language in relation to notions of race, mixedness, and postcoloniality. She is a Faculty Advisory Board Member of the and Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Hunter College, and Research Associate at the in the Program in Linguistics at The Graduate Center. She is Associate Editor for Linguistic Anthropology of American Anthropologist.
Reyes works on theories of semiotics, discourse, racialization, and postcoloniality. Combining ethnographic fieldwork and discourse analysis, her research examines how ideologies of language and race are formulated through spatiotemporal scales of communicative context in both the U.S. and the Philippines. She has conducted three main ethnographic studies: a four-year study of Southeast Asian American teenagers in an after-school videomaking project at an Asian American community arts organization in Philadelphia; a one-year study of Korean American fifth graders in an Asian American “cram school” in New York City; and a two-year study of Filipino college students and professors at a private university in Manila, Philippines. In this most recent work in the Philippines, Reyes examines conceptions of mixed race/language that link an elite social figure (a type of privileged mestizo youth called conyo) to an elite linguistic register (a form of Tagalog-English speech called conyo). She examines how anxieties about nation, modernity, race, and language are traceable through the circulation of the conyo figure/register on college campuses and across new media sites. She is also in the preliminary stages of researching Riot Grrrl punk feminist zine archives from the early 1990s.
Reyes is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including the Advanced Research Collaborative Distinguished Fellowship (2016), (2009-2010), (2006-2007), and National Research Council/Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for Minorities (2002-2003).
Reyes, Angela (2017a) Inventing postcolonial elites: Race, language, mix, excess. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 27(2): 210-231.
Reyes, Angela (2017b) Ontology of fake: Discerning the Philippine elite. Signs and Society 5(S1): 100-127.
Wortham, Stanton and Angela Reyes (2015) Discourse Analysis Beyond the Speech Event. New York: Routledge. *Awarded the Edward Sapir Book Prize, Society for Linguistic Anthropology.
Reyes, Angela (2014) Linguistic anthropology in 2013: Super-New-Big. American Anthropologist 116(2): 366-378.
Reyes, Angela (2013) Corporations are people: Emblematic scales of brand personification among Asian American youth. Language in Society 42(2): 163-185.
Reyes, Angela (2011) “Racist!”: Metapragmatic regimentation of racist discourse by Asian American youth. Discourse and Society 22(4): 458-473.
Alim, H. Samy and Angela Reyes (2011) Complicating race: Articulating race across multiple social dimensions. Discourse and Society 22(4): 379-384.
Reyes, Angela (2007) Language, Identity, and Stereotype Among Southeast Asian American Youth: The Other Asian. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Reyes, Angela (2005) Appropriation of African American slang by Asian American youth. Journal of Sociolinguistics 9(4): 509-532.
Reyes, Angela (2004) Asian American stereotypes as circulating resource. Pragmatics 14(2/3): 115-125.
Reyes, Angela (2002) “Are you losing your culture?”: Poetics, indexicality, and Asian American identity. Discourse Studies 4(2): 183-199.
Before discussing populist discourse, it is essential to differentiate between the terms “populist” and “popular.” In the U.S., the word “populist” is often used to describe a politician or political movement with mass appeal. However, that is not the definition of populism.
Populism is not just a matter of having mass appeal, and it is not just a matter of discourse. It can have serious real-world consequences such as Trump’s Muslim ban, racist deportations, class collaboration, genocide, and beyond. Because of the destructive real-world effects of populism, it is impossible to discuss populist discourse without also taking those real-world effects into account.
Populism as a stand-alone ideology, like other harmful ideologies that incorporate racism, sexism, xenophobia, and the like, becomes dangerous when it is set against the backdrop of a crisis situation like the one some people are facing today. Low wages; insufficient healthcare, childcare, and education; and escalating imperialist war are all real-world issues that contribute to feelings of outrage and disenfranchisement, and the desire to do something about these issues. In historical moments such as these, there is often (but not always) a correct understanding that something’s wrong but a misattribution of the cause of these problems, and thus, a miscalculation of what the solution should be.
Of course, there are many examples of the sinister effect of populism (Nazi Germany is probably the most famous example), and the defeat of class struggle or the perpetuation of exploitation through means other than discourse. One clear, specific example of this, though, is unemployment in the Rust Belt.
It is certainly a problem that white working-class men such as auto workers in Cleveland, Detroit, and elsewhere are losing their jobs to manufacturers outsourcing factory jobs overseas. However, the blame is placed on the Mexican workers who take these jobs for a fraction of the wages paid in the U.S. The solution is to keep “American jobs in American hands,” even going so far as to believe that immigrants (especially those from Latin American countries) are coming into the U.S. to “steal American jobs.” In this example, while the problem of growing unemployment (or shrinking wages and benefits) is correctly identified, the cause of that problem – capital cutting costs by exploiting workers abroad – is instead attributed to “foreigners stealing their jobs.” Outrage that should be directed against the capitalists who are directly responsible is instead rerouted towards individuals of the same class (and thus with more similar interests) as the disenfranchised workers through populist rhetoric. This is some of the rhetoric Donald Trump feeds off of.
Under similar conditions, left-wing populists such as Bernie Sanders can also come to the fore, making all sorts of promises to improve living conditions (which may be true temporarily, or until there is the next rightward swing) or make the country more democratic (without explaining what sort of “democracy” they would like). These promises are often unrealistic or pandering to a certain demographic, and encourage illusions in reformist politics rather than class-based politics. In this way, both left- and right-wing populists reroute nascent movements of class struggle back into participation in electoral politics and even (in our situation now) semi-fascistic mobilizations, thus stymying any chance of actual positive social change and in fact driving political consciousness farther to the right and creating dangerous conditions for immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and women alike.