“Occupying Language:
Interrupting Linguistic Inequality”
Ana Celia Zentella and David Kirkland
Friday, May 4, 2012, 3:00 PM
Vertical Campus 9155
55 Lexington Avenue at 24th Street

Please join us on Friday, May 4 for the next lecture in the Mina Shaughnessy Speaker Series. Ana Celia Zentella (University of California, San Diego) and David Kirkland (Michigan State University) will present “Occupying Language: Interrupting Linguistic Inequality.”

Ana Celia Zentella
Professor Emerita
Department of Ethnic Studies
University of California, San Diego

Bilinguals and Borders: Conflicting Constructions of Bilingualism on the California-Mexico Border
Fluency in Spanish and English is the most visible cultural marker of the identity of transfronterizos, i.e.,US-Mexico border residents who have spent years living and studying in both countries. Interviews in San Diego and Tijuana with 40transfronterizo college students indicate that, despite their proficient bilingualism, they struggle with conflicting constructions of language and identity that are the result of rigid national and language borders. In particular, intra-sentential code switching, or Spanglish, is frowned upon, because that way of speaking is identified with el hablar mocho de los pochos [‘chopped up Mexican American speech’]. However, the obstacles transfronterizos encounter in ESL programs, criticisms of their Spanish by Mexican citizens, feelings of shame about their Spanish-accented English, and heightened English-only fervor in the state and nation challenge some transfronterizos’ commitment to patrolling the borders of Spanish and its central role in their identity. Differences in class, gender, birthplace, education help explain conflicting attitudes and behaviors. The resulting hierarchy of authentic codes and identities has significant parallels to the US-Puerto Rico situation.

Ana Celia Zentella (Ph.D., U. of Pennsylvania), Professor Emerita in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego, is an anthro-political linguist internationally recognized for her research on U.S. Latino languages, language socialization, “Spanglish”, and “English-only” laws. Her community ethnography, Growing up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in NY (Blackwell, 1997), won awards from the British Association of Applied Linguistics and the Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists. She has also edited three books, Building on Strength: Language and Literacy in Latino Families and Communities (Teachers College Press, 2005), Multilingual San Diego: Portraits of Language Loss and Revitalization (University Readers, 2009), and Multilingual Philadelphia: Portraits of Language and Social Change (Swarthmore College: Linguistics, 2010). Her latest book, co-authored with Ricardo Otheguy, is Spanish in New York: Language contact, dialectal leveling, and structural continuity (Oxford UP, 2012). In 1996, Manhattan’s Borough President, Ruth Messinger, declared October 30 “Doctor Ana Celia Zentella Day”, for “her leading role in building appreciation for language diversity and respect for language rights.” Currently, Professor Zentella chairs the Language and Social Justice Committee of the American Anthropology Association.

David E. Kirkland
Associate Professor
Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures
Michigan State University

The Passions of Change: Critical Thoughts on Linguistic Justice and Transformative Education explores language through the particular voices of urban youth and the critical “meshings” that represent their worldviews. He highlights a set of linguistic third spaces created between classrooms and within youth culture (Kirkland, 2010) that tilt toward fuller linguistic justice. He suggests that language in youth culture complicates the political and pedagogical perspectives of language in schools (e.g., a standard English, English Only, and English as an Official Language) and concludes that the most significant effect of language in youth culture is not pluralist chaos in otherwise stable and static systems of language, but new Englishes that absorb and represent a radical revision in the concept of English itself of which new century teachers should be aware.

David E. Kirkland is a transdisciplinary scholar of language, literacy, and urban education, who explores the intersections among urban youth culture, gender, and language and literacy practices. His work has also explored urban teacher preparation, digital media, and cultural aesthetics of revolutionary justice. He has spent the past five years analyzing culture, language, and texts of urban American youth, and has expertise in critical literary and linguistic and ethnographic research methods. He has received many awards for his work including NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, NCTE Cultivating New Voices Fellowship Award, 2006 AERA Division G Dissertation Award, among many others. He has published widely. His most recent articles include: “‘Books Like Clothes’: Engaging Young Black Men with Reading” (Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy), “Listening to Echoes: Teaching Young Black Men Literacy, and the Distraction of ELA Standards” (Language Arts), “‘Black Skin, White Masks’: Normalizing Whiteness and the Trouble with the Achievement Gap” (TCRecord), “English(es) in urban contexts: Politics, Pluralism, and Possibilities” (English Education), and “We real cool: Examining Black males and literacy” (Reading Research Quarterly). He recently completed his fourth book, A Search Past Silence: A Counter Narrative of Black Males and Literacy, which is part of Teacher College Press’s Language and Literacy Series. Dr. Kirkland believes that, in their language and literacies, youth take on new meanings beginning with a voice and verb, where words when spoken or written have the power to transform the world inside-out.

The City University of New York