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PWR 2JJ: The Rhetoric of Language, Identity, and Power

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Language is a mark of our identity and a site of resistance, discrimination, and change. Cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldúa, illuminates, “So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language.” Linguist Joshua Fishman puts forth that with the loss of a language “you take away its greetings, its curses, its praises, its laws, its literature, its songs, its riddles, its proverbs, its cures, its wisdom, its prayers.”

In this writing and speaking course, we will consider the construction and negotiation of power and difference through language as it intersects with gender, sexuality, race, ability, and class. We’ll explore how this happens across spheres such as politics, education, medicine, and the media, intertwined with forces like globalization, immigration, and technology. From Rickford and King’s research on language in the courtroom to Jane Hill’s work on linguistic appropriation, we’ll take a sociolinguistic lens to understand monolingual bias and linguistic racism.

You are invited to take an interdisciplinary approach to examine an issue that matters to you. Student projects might explore translanguaging in youth culture, examine factors shaping the endangerment of an indigenous language, understand the ways second generation immigrant communities assert their identities through hybrid language practices or interrogate the use of mock accents in social media. Exploring new modes in written and oral communication, you will have the opportunity to consider a wide range of genres and translate your argument and findings into a presentation for live audiences. Through oral presentations and in-class workshops, we’ll focus on communicating research with multimedia to various audiences.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) You'll propose a project that explores the social, cultural, or political dimensions of a language issue (this may include dialects, vernaculars, and variations) as it intersects with the users of that language. For example, you might examine AI and language bias or xenophobia in political rhetoric. You might also explore how language intersects with conversations about immigration, health issues like reproductive justice and mental health, and racial equity.  Students will translate their proposal into a 5-minute research pitch.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages)You’ll expand upon the ideas expressed in your research proposal to craft a research-based argument that seeks to persuade your intended audience and make a small contribution to the conversation. You are encouraged to have a component of primary research, such as rhetorical/discourse analysis, archival research, field work, or other qual/quan research to supplement your secondary research.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) To conclude the quarter, you will translate your written argument into a memorable 10-minute research talk (with Q&A) that incorporates multimedia.

Genre/Modes assignment

(1-2 minutes in length) Drawing on a range of media and storytelling techniques, you will create a “micro-film” that teaches us one interesting thing you’ve learned in your research so far.