Abstract

Abstract:

In their target article, Anne Charity Hudley, Christine Mallinson, and Mary Bucholtz (2020) have challenged linguists to constructively engage with race and racism. They suggest three core principles for inclusion and equity in linguistics: (i) 'social impact' as a core criterion for excellence; (ii) the acknowledgment of our field's 'origins as a tool of colonialism and conquest'; and (iii) the elimination of the 'race gap' that 'diminishes the entire field … by excluding scholars and students of color'. Here I amplify Charity Hudley et al.'s challenges through some of my own critiques of Creole studies. These critiques serve to further analyze institutional whiteness as, in their terms, 'a structuring force in academia, informing the development of theories, methods, and models in ways that reproduce racism and white supremacy'. The latter is exceptionally overt in the prejudicial misrepresentations (a.k.a. 'Creole exceptionalism') that we linguists have created and transmitted, since the colonial era, about Creole languages and their speakers. One such misrepresentation, whose popularity trumps its dubious historical and empirical foundations, starts with the postulation that Creole languages as a class contrast with so-called 'regular' languages due to allegedly 'abnormal' processes of emergence and transmission. In effect, then, Creole studies may well be the most spectacular case of exclusion and marginalization in linguistics. With this in mind, I ask of Charity Hudley et al. a key question that is inspired by legal scholar Derrick Bell's 'racial interest-convergence theory', whereby those in power will actively work in favor of racial justice only when such work also contributes to their self-interest. Given this theory, how can we sustainably implement any agenda, including Charity Hudley et al.'s, that stands to undermine the 'structuring power of white supremacy', including the power to choose whose research gets funded or whose subfield is included in 'core' linguistics? Bell's theory might also bear on my proposed funder principle for the intellectual history of Creole studies. I suggest that it is out of self-interest that the European funders of the colonial enterprise in Africa and the Americas helped create the power-knowledge structuring force that accounts for the genesis and transmission of Creole exceptionalism through centuries—in spite of mounting evidence against it. I end with an optimistic note about what might constitute 'success' in linguistics.

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