Abstract for the talk


Vally Lytra (2016) asks, “how is ethnic identity imagined and performed but also imposed in discourse and social activity? What is the role of the nation-state and its institutions, such as schools and the media, in the social reproduction of ethnic categorization? Whose linguistic and identity practices are considered authentic and whose are not, and who decides'' (p.131)? In this project, I extend Lytra's question by asking in what ways projects of panethnicity become imagined within transnational racial frames, especially within the confines of an educational institution. The current study presents a critical race and anthro-political linguistic ethnography of three significant moments of linguistic policing in the planning, execution, and aftermath of a Black History Month show at a high school with a highly heterogeneous population of Black subjectivities. Two main research questions guide the paper. First, I ask how languages (Dominican Spanish and Black English) and cultures are shared and contested in the service of ethno-raciolinguistic development for Afro-Caribbeans in U.S. contexts. In asking this question, I contend with the embodied experiences of Blackness that permit linguistic heterogeneity within Black racializations for certain bilingual speakers over others (e.g Haitian Creole vs Spanish).  Secondly, I ask how schools allow for the construction and negotiation of ethno-racial identity through the implementation and direction of a school-sponsored activity. In exploring this activity, as part of the school culture, I am able to interrogate pedagogical and policy impacts on the construction of identity boundaries for heterogeneous Black subjects.

Ultimately, I look to theorize about the ways that language informs ethno-racial developments among a group of students who represent differing Black subjectivities. Further, I use these moments to understand how school decision making and implementation (or lack thereof) of programming is implicated in the fashioning of self and others for students. Using the annual Black History Month show as an anchor, I first consider how racial scripts and the negotiation of space provide a basis for the creation of boundaries around identity categories for students who sit at the margins of several ethnoracial categories. I then examine the ways in which school policies and practices promote the active erasure of Blackness as a central element of Latinidad. And lastly, I reflect on the implementation of culturally relevant pedagogies and practices within school settings with highly heterogeneous populations, despite institutional classificatory practices that would mark the population as homogeneously Black and Hispanic as mutually exclusive categories.