In her contribution to the “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series, Anne Esacove highlights the Trans Literacy Project (TLP) and…
Sociolinguistic debates around the definitions and significance of “pidgin” and “creole” languages were increasing in the 1960s and the SSRC’s Committee on Sociolinguistics played a role in cultivating these discussions. This 1968 report by Dell Hymes summarizes issues raised at a conference convened by the Council at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, to better understand the historical development, the grammatical and lexical evolutions, and the social uses of pidgin and creole languages. Though he highlights how social science can better inform research on pidginization and creolization, Hymes identifies knowledge gaps, among them the nature of the relationship between these languages and national identity, and more broadly the lack of historical and social scientific knowledge of this topic.
Alexander Duchêne’s contribution to the “Sociolinguistics Frontiers” series traces the ways in which multilingualism has been understood and valued by scholars and beyond. Duchêne shows how the work of sociolinguistics dramatically shifted the image of multilingual speakers and societies as a problem for nation-states to something to be celebrated, even as an indicator and contributor to social justice for minority language speakers. He then goes on to argue that this validation and recognition of multiple languages can divert attention away from broader inequalities, especially socioeconomic ones, that multilingualism is unable to address.
On April 25–26, 2019, the SSRC’s Media & Democracy program hosted a workshop on “Race, Gender, and Toxicity Online,” preceded by a roundtable featuring comments from leading scholars in this field. Senior program officer Mike Miller highlights key insights from the event, including how users do not simply leave their identities behind when they go online. The result for marginalized communities and women, whose identities tend to structure their political lives, can be disproportionate levels of hateful speech and vitriol. The roundtable participants—Zizi Papacharissi, Lisa Nakamura, and Catherine Knight Steele—explain how three stakeholders with significant influence over the content and form of online discourse—journalists, developers, and academics—can and should address its increasing toxicity.
Narratives of abuse and violence that women experience play a crucial role in prosecuting perpetrators. However, as Shonna Trinch explains in her contribution to the “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series, the representations of these narratives are susceptible to distortion by legal actors recording stories of said encounters or detail discrepancies on the part of victims. Building from her research on Latinas’ retellings of their abuse, Trinch argues these omissions create stereotypical and androcentric narratives that hurt women’s chances at justice and remove their agency. She concludes by highlighting the Seeing Rape project and class, programs she started alongside playwright Barbara Cassidy, to perform and problematize representations of gendered violence.
In this undergraduate essay for the “Democratic Erosion” miniseries, Justin Saint-Loubert-Bie examines recent ballot restriction initiatives currently under consideration in various state legislatures. He explores whether these efforts—requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to be included on the state’s election ballot—could help bolster US democratic norms. Motivated by concerns about the current political climate and growing polarization, Saint-Loubert-Bie presents the arguments for and against these ballot restrictions. Ultimately, this piece asserts that these ballot restrictions could narrow the political divide and protect democratic norms, though he is unsure there is enough time.
In their contribution to the “Chancing the Storm” series, Amber Wutich and Wendy Jepson address how water insecurity promulgates various forms of uncertainty that impact households in both the Global North and South. Drawing on their multinational research, they show how insecurity is experienced differently, depending on geographical, political, and economic conditions—where water comes from, whether households or municipalities can invest in water infrastructure, or whether residents can afford water. Yet, across different contexts, uncertainty is both a driver and consequence of water insecurity. Wutich and Jepson demonstrate how social science contributes to understanding how these dynamics can open up new channels for community-centered water management.
Reflecting on her Sexuality Research Fellowship Program experience and how it shaped her career, Lynn Comella explores the evolution of and growth in the feminist sex-toy retail industry since the 1970s. Through ethnographic research across different field sites around the United States, she interrogates how these women-friendly shops and the larger industry around them went from a peripheral phenomenon to mainstream in the span of a few decades, normalizing women’s sex lives and their sexual desires. In her research, she argues that by co-opting consumer culture, sex-positive feminists were able to spread their message of sexual empowerment; however, Comella also highlights potential challenges of “practicing sexual politics through the marketplace.”
In the third installment of our 2019 undergraduate “Democratic Erosion” miniseries, Emilie Larsen examines how the exact-match policy used in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race to determine voter eligibility could undermine democratic institutions. Won by Republican Brian Kemp, this election has been mired by accusations of voter suppression, with the exact-match policy at the center, which some advocacy groups claimed undermined turnout in minority and predominantly Democratic areas. Larsen argues the use of the exact-match policy is a form of “stealth authoritarianism” that targets specific parts of electorate for disenfranchisement.
Wesley Leonard’s contribution to the “Sociolinguistics Frontiers” series argues that sociolinguistic approaches to Native American languages are best conducted as part of a project of “language reclamation.” Leonard discusses how past framings of Indigenous languages as “endangered,” while in some ways well-intentioned, replicated the distance of language communities from scholarly research. An emphasis on reclamation—“efforts by Indigenous communities to claim the right to speak their heritage languages”—highlights the role of the community members in the production of knowledge on and the revival of Native American languages.