Reyes (2013)

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The Language and Social Interaction Working Group (LANSI)

Analyzing the Language of Race and Racism in Social Interaction, April 4, 2013

Angela Reyes
Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York



How do we determine the relevance of social categories, such as “race,” in interaction? What theoretical and methodological principles help us interpret how signs get linked to racial ideologies? To explore these questions, this talk centers on the analysis of ethnographic and discourse data in which Korean American fifth graders cry “racist” after certain uses of the term “black” in classroom discourse. Drawing on video-recorded interaction at an Asian American supplementary school in New York City, the analysis illustrates how two types of metapragmatic regimentation typify certain segments of discourse as “racist” through the indexical construal of broader oppositions that link “black” to negative racialized qualities, including deviance, violence, and insults. I argue that “racist” cries by Asian American youth become a rich resource for achieving a number of interactional effects in the classroom, while challenging language ideologies of referentialism and personalism and racial ideologies of colorblindness and postrace.


Angela Reyes (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2003) is Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Department of English at Hunter College and Doctoral Faculty in the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She works on theories of semiotics, discourse, stereotype, and racialization. Combining ethnographic fieldwork and discourse analysis of video-recorded interaction, her research examines how ideologies of race and ethnicity are formulated through spatiotemporal scales of communicative context, particularly in informal educational sites for Asian American urban youth. Her books include Beyond Yellow English: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America (Oxford University Press, 2009), and Language, Identity, and Stereotype Among Southeast Asian American Youth: The Other Asian (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007).


Data Session

Our next data session will take place on Saturday, January 20, from 1-3 pm in GDH 273B.