Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper focuses on educators as agents of language socialization: How do U.S.-born, White-identified tenure-line faculty in Spanish language departments/programs talk about race and racial identity? How do they frame their own racial ideologies relative to Spanish—the language they teach in and about?
A narrative analysis of semi-structured “focused conversations” (Tannen, 2008) with four focal participants reveals that Whiteness and White identities are defined by and/or conflated with a claim to advanced, “native-like” or “near-native” Spanish language proficiency. While work has been done on the legacies of proficiency relative to “native-ness” or the “native speaker norm” in academic discourse (Valdés et al., 2003), the “near-native” scholar has not been framed (or colored) in racial or ethnic terms. I argue that this metonym for an academically proficient speaker/learner of Spanish is historically and implicitly imagined as White and not Chicanx, Latinx or Hispanic. “Deeply embedded in the culture of foreign language departments,” (Valdés, 1998, p. 158) the use of explicitly de-racialized “non-native” nomenclature is a means by which academic actors are socialized to avoid acknowledging race and hegemonic whiteness (Flores, 2016) in conversations about “authentic” or “proper” Spanish language instruction. “Non-” or “near-native” identifiers covertly maintain paradigms by which scholarly expertise is/is not associated with racialized bodies and accented voices. Participants made this connection explicit; it takes a central focus.
This research aims to inspire more conversations on how Spanish language education is historically racialized (García, 1993) and sanitized (Villa, 2002) to fortify the White supremacist architecture of U.S. universities.