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Reflections on Language and Power – Tatyana Kleynat at ARC By Sara Vogel

Language and power are tightly intertwined. That was my takeaway from November 16th’s ARC talk featuring the thoughtful, engaged, and critical scholar Tatyana Kleyn, who is an Associate Professor and Director of Bilingual Education and TESOL in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at the City College of New York.

This message about language and power came through in the substance of Kleyn’s talk and the film she screened about how transborder young people navigate language, family, and school as their families repatriate small towns in Oaxaca, Mexico after years of living in the United States. The power of words was also a theme that resonated in the post-talk conversation, including in ways that revealed some tensions in our ARC community that we would do well to address moving forward.

I’ll unpack that conversation in a bit. But first: the talk.

Tatyana is someone I have had the privilege to work with through the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a project that brings K-12 teachers, administrators, and professors in bilingual education from across the CUNY campuses together to study and improve education for bilingual kids. As Don mentioned in his opening remarks, Kleyn’s work truly embodies the values and mission of ARC. Her research is interdisciplinary, straddling all of ARC’s clusters. She views phenomena such as immigration and multilingualism through the lens of theories that take into account racial, economic, and linguistic power hierarchies. And she is a public scholar, not content simply to write for narrow audiences of academics. Her films about the experiences of undocumented and transborder youth, as well as curriculum and guides for teachers based on the content of the films, are accessible for free online.

Before showing her film Una Vida, Dos Paìses (One Life, Two Countries), Kleyn asked us to consider the power of film as its own language. She argued persuasively that film can be mobilized as a research method, a medium of dissemination, and as service and activism. At the same time that she celebrated the capacity of the medium to “reprioritize whom we listen to” and to bring research participants’ stories alive for wider audiences, she also described some of the limitations and challenges of this type of scholarship. She has had to build strong relationships with her participants, many of them folks targeted in today’s political climate for their or their family members’ undocumented status. In addition, while she prefers not to use voice-overs in her films so that audiences hear participants “direct from the source,” she acknowledged her and her collaborators’ roles in editing and juxtaposing clips to create cohesive narratives.

The film she screened at ARC introduced us to a group of transborder young people living in Oaxaca, Mexico who call themselves “New Dreamers.” The film captures the complex, mixed emotions that come with “going home” — the feeling of belonging, but also of being “ni de aqui ni de alla” (from neither here nor there). One of the core themes discussed by participants was the role of language in their transitions to life in Mexico. Across contexts in the US and Mexico, languages are used for different purposes and have different statuses attributed to them. While the youth expressed love for the English language, and were often called upon by peers to tutor them in English, they also found themselves lost in classes delivered in Spanish, and felt peers and teachers in Oaxaca sometimes viewed them as stuck-up for their knowledge of English and experiences in the US. In her talk, Kleyn also described how indigenous languages, often regarded as less prestigious in their communities, are a key part of students’ linguistic repertoires, enabling them to communicate especially with older generations.

After Kleyn’s presentation, an audience member asked a question about the young people’s accents. It elicited a strong reaction from some of those present, including one who found it so offensive that he walked out. Rachel Chapman, a fellow ARC student, has provided her take on the question, and her response can be read on our blog here. Kleyn responded by critiquing the premise of the question, arguing that language ideologies about accent are rooted in socially and historically constructed hierarchies that rank speakers based on race, economic status, perceived education, ethnicity, and other markers (see Flores & Rosa, 2015 for more on this).

To me, the strength of ARC is its ability to foster critical conversations about dynamic and complex issues — immigration, inequality, multilingualism, and our digital world — with people at different stages in their academic careers, from different disciplinary, racial, and cultural backgrounds, in order to deepen research and practice in our fields.

Having conversations about complex issues across difference is not easy, however, and this moment at ARC brought those tensions into sharp relief.

Despite a professed desire for open, democratic dialogue, academic communities can reproduce many of the hierarchies they seek to dismantle. As we learned from the student when he returned to the conversation, for people of color, academia can be a violent space. Too often, people of color shoulder the burden and invest much emotional labor into correcting the oppressive dynamics which permeate our institutions. Others (read: white people) need to step up.

At ARC, there are some first steps we can take. There are many incredible organizations such as Border Crossers and the New York Coalition of Radical Educators, among others, which have figured out how to facilitate critical and constructive conversations across difference. I’ve drawn on resources from these organizations as I navigate my role as a white scholar and educator engaged in work with youth of color and their teachers, and have found them exceptionally useful.

To have critical and constructive conversations across difference, relationship-building and setting community norms are key. I noticed that when I began my time as an ARC student, there wasn’t a space devoted to building this community — perhaps such a space could be useful in the future. Some questions for ARC students and fellows to consider as we build community might include:

  • What are the challenges of coming together as an interdisciplinary community?
  • What norms might help ensure our conversations are both critical and constructive?
  • Who gets to study, publish about, and profit from research on inequality, multilingualism, and immigration? Why? In what ways does our community challenge those trends? In what ways does it reproduce them?
  • How might ARC fellows and students not just share our research, but work together to ensure we are also engaged in making our fields more equitable and just?

In many ways, Tatyana’s work offers us a compelling example of engaged, critical scholarship. She began her talk by discussing her own positionality — her own background and experiences, and how she arrived to her topic. She is transparent about how her own power and privilege shape her teaching and research. She forges strong bonds with her study participants, reciprocating in the communities that provide her with data. And her scholarship and teaching go hand in hand with her social justice activism.

I hope the talk from this week is a catalyst for some soul-searching at ARC. Not only might we strengthen and deepen our own work, but we might continue the hard work of dismantling oppressive structures within academia too.

Citation:

Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171. https://doi.org/10.17763/0017-8055.85.2.149

 

By Sara Vogel

PhD Student in Urban Education, CUNY-Graduate Center

Ebola Crisis in West Africa

On September 22, 2015, the Advanced Research Collaborative sponsored a panel discussion on the mortality analysis, socio-political implications, and Western response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.


On September 22, 2015, the Advanced Research Collaborative sponsored a panel discussion on the mortality analysis, socio-political implications, and Western response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Panelists included:

Leith Mullings (moderator) – The Graduate Center
Leith Mullings is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and immediate past president of the American Anthropological Association. Her research began in Africa on traditional medicine and religion in postcolonial Ghana, and her work in the U.S. addresses the consequences of class exploitation, racial discrimination, and gender subordination for the health and well-being of working- and middle-class women in Harlem.

Adia Benton – Brown University
An assistant professor of Anthropology, Adia Benton received her Ph.D. in social (medical) anthropology from Harvard University. She is a medical anthropologist specializing in HIV/AIDS, essential surgical care, race, post-conflict development, humanitarianism, and gender violence.

Kim Yi Dionne – Smith College
Kim Yi Dionne is an assistant professor of Government who teaches courses on African politics and ethnic politics. The substantive focus of her work is on the opinions of ordinary Africans toward interventions aimed at improving their condition and the relative success of such interventions. Her work has been published in African Affairs, Comparative Political Studies, and World Development.

Stéphane Helleringer – Columbia University
Stéphane Helleringer is an assistant professor of Public Health who has worked extensively in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi. Most recently, his work has focused on developing new approaches to evaluating the impact of large public health programs on mortality in sub-Saharan countries.

Income Inequality LIS Book Launch

Income Inequality: Economic Disparities and the Middle Class in Affluent Countries, book launch. Panel with editors Janet Gornick, Director of LIS and professor at The Graduate Center, and Markus Jäntti, Research Director of LIS and professor at Stockholm University, and moderated by Branko Milanovic, expert on global inequality at The World Bank.

Contributing authors present their chapters: Arthur Alderson of Indiana University, Bloomington; Bruce Bradbury of University of New South Wales; Louis Chauvel of the University of Luxembourg; Nancy Folbre of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Vincent Mahler of Loyola University, Chicago; Stefán Ólafsson of University of Iceland; and Reeve Vanneman of the University of Maryland.

BA@20 Roundtable

Twenty years after the publication of Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), scholarship no longer simply posits the relationship between blackness and modernity as an irreconcilable problem. Though Gilroy posited The Black Atlantic as a ‘heuristic’ work, his ideas engendered debates in history, anthropology, and literary studies as well as political thought and philosophy—areas once perceived as the exclusive domain of an organic and hermetically sealed Western tradition. The Black Atlantic @ Twenty symposium (BA@20) aims to explore how Gilroy’s insistence that blackness figures as a constitutive element of modernity has effected a lasting transformation in knowledge production.

Graduate Center Immigration Panel

The Graduate Center, CUNY hosted “Perspectives on National Immigration Reform and New York City,” on April 19, 2013. “Perspectives” was moderated by Errol Louis, host of NY1’s “Inside City Hall” and adjunct professor, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

The Graduate Center, CUNY hosted “Perspectives on National Immigration Reform and New York City,” on April 19, 2013. “Perspectives” was moderated by Errol Louis, host of NY1’s “Inside City Hall” and adjunct professor, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The event featured leading American scholars on immigration:

Richard Alba, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, the Graduate Center

Sujatha Fernandes, Associate Professor of Sociology, Queens College and the Graduate Center, and ARC Distinguished CUNY Fellow, 2013–2014

Nancy Foner, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center

Philip Kasinitz, Professor of Sociology, the Graduate Center and Hunter College

John Mollenkopf, Distinguished Professor in Political Science and Sociology, the Graduate Center

GC Experts on Immigration: Discussion on Reform

GC Experts discuss national immigration reform

Sujatha Fernandes, Associate Professor of Sociology, Queens College and the Graduate Center, and ARC Distinguished CUNY Fellow, 2013–2014

Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center

John Mollenkopf, Distinguished Professor in Political Science and Sociology, the Graduate Center

Philip Kasinitz, Professor of Sociology, the Graduate Center and Hunter College

Richard Alba, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, the Graduate Center

Inequality: The Enemy Between Us? | Richard Wilkinson

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, “Inequality: The Enemy Between Us?” was hosted at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, “Inequality: The Enemy Between Us?” was hosted at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and cosponsored by Advanced Research Collaborative; the Center for Humanities; (In)Equality Matters; The J. Max Bond Center for the Just City; Equality Trust; Public Science Project; Center for Human Environments; and the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in Environmental Psychology.

Inequality and Economic Growth | Paul Krugman & Tony Atkinson in Conversation

As we endure the slow, uneven recovery from the “Great Recession,” there is no more critical or timely question than that of the relationship between economic growth and inequality. On May 20, 2013 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, two of the world’s most preeminent economists discussed the connection between prosperity for some and poverty for others.

As we endure the slow, uneven recovery from the “Great Recession,” there is no more critical or timely question than that of the relationship between economic growth and inequality. On May 20, 2013 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, two of the world’s most preeminent economists discussed the connection between prosperity for some and poverty for others.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, a 2008 Nobel laureate, and an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times @NYTimeskrugman. He is the author of numerous books, including the recently published End This Depression Now!

Sir Tony Atkinson, Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford, is one of the world’s foremost scholars of inequality and the author or editor of more than thirty books on inequality and related topics. He recently coedited Top Incomes: A Global Perspective, a volume that analyses high-end income inequality around the world.

Moderated by Chrystia Freeland, managing director and editor of consumer news at Thomson Reuters and author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else @cafreeland.

Presented by the Advanced Research Collaborative @ARCCUNY and LIS @lisdata.