I took my candidacy exams a few weeks ago. I cannot stop thinking about a softball question I got on Latinidad that I fumbled through. It was what makes Latinidad—and I kept focusing on the lack of actually Latinidad from a linguistics approach. This is to say, Latinidad I argued, was encompassed not in our uniformity but our lack of it, for example in language. From the historical genocide of our people who included the stripping of our languages from the Philippines to Hispaniola, to all of the Americas. That Latinidad is found in the current repatriated people living in Mexico who now aren’t accepted for their Spanish or English varieties. My answer was problematic for lots of reasons, including the fact that it didn’t focus on any theories regarding race (although I did discuss raciolinguistics) gender, sexuality, religious, culinary, or health care. Instead I focused on language and our inability to be umbrellaed yet some how still taking shade underneath Spanish.
I should have answered on a variety of theories, I didn’t, but it is okay I passed and I somewhat have moved on.
However, I am still left thinking about how my department has turned me more into a linguist than I realized—as I focus so much on language identity and development.
My Spanish department is split into two programs “Hispanic Linguistics” and “Cultural and Literary Studies”. I am the first and I believe, still the only student, to take-up a new path in our department “Inter-Specialization Program” which combines both Linguistics and Cultural Studies. I am still at a loss at why the divide exists. How can you study language and not study people? Linguistics is cultural studies.
At a Linguistics conference I listened in on a panel that included a lobbyist (who knew linguists had lobbyists?) who said when talking to politicians they focused on language because if you focus on who speaks Spanish, for example, then politicians shut down, but if you can just focus on language than politicians are more apt to listen. I asked “How do you separate language from people?” The lobbyist responded that one could do so by asking the politician about their study abroad experiences. That most politicians had been to Europe during High School, and could connect in this way. I was stunned it was the most white-washing of language. Europe is okay, language is okay, but imagining actually Spanish speakers in the US was a turn off. I wanted to follow-up with another question “How do you negotiate perpetuation of raciolinguistics?” but I didn’t, as I am still too shy and awkward at conferences.