Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Making Latina/o Panethnicity and Managing American Anxieties

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Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race opens by examining New Northwest High School's project of transforming students and the ethnoracial contortions through which students navigate these efforts. I frame administrative attempts to create "young Latino professionals" in terms of a local politics of intraracial class mobility. I show how this specific context instantiates and reconfigures broader conceptions of race and ethnicity, structuring the school-based creation and enactment of "Puerto Rican," "Mexican," and "Latina/o" models of personhood. I also argue that through its unique (im)migration and social history Chicago becomes a prime site for the experience of Latina/o panethnicity and the creation of emblems of Latinidad. I go on to situate processes of racialized panethnic category-making as counterparts to language ideologies and linguistic practices in this school. I analyze the standardizing ideologies that stigmatize students' Spanish and English linguistic practices and result in the inversion of Latina/o bilingualism through what I describe as an ideology of "languagelessness." I demonstrate how students respond to this stigmatization and how they take up the notion of "young Latino professional" by enregistering particular elements of the English and Spanish languages. I characterize these linguistic practices as "Unaccented Spanglish" and suggest that they play a key role in forging a panethnic Latina/o voice. I end by exploring how similar patterns of stigmatization and voicing are tied to the semiotic operations that render aspects of students' literacy and wider symbolic repertoires as criminalized forms. The engagement with ethnolinguistic category-making that develops throughout the dissertation seeks to provoke broader discussions about the sociolinguistic, historical, and political-economic assemblages through which people come to look like a language and sound like a race across cultural contexts.

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