Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a pattern I’ve been noticing—but low-key ignoring—in my daily linguistic interactions with some Montrealers. That is, for some reason, my interactions would almost always start in French, but will never end in French. Instead, such interactions would typically switch into English within 5 seconds.
But I suppose it’s not just “for some reason”. Flores and Rosa (2015; Rosa & Flores, 2017) coined a phrase to describe what I’m talking about here—raciolinguistic ideologies. Raciolinguistic ideologies explain the co-construction of language and race, which help reveal how language users associate certain speech acts to specific racial categories. Looking through this lens, I argue that the reason for why my typical language encounters start in French but continue and end in English is due to the raciolinguistic assumptions that inhabit the contexts in which I use my languages with others.
To give you an example, here’s a poem I wrote, inspired from a recent real-life incident at a store in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). I took some creative license to edit the conversations a bit to fit the poem and edit out miscellaneous or identifiable details, while still retaining the gist of what happened. I also added, in italics, the thoughts that were running through my mind during this incident, as well as those that ran through my mind as I was writing about this experience.
This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.
Our guest blogger this week, Linzey Corridon, is a poet, Vanier Canada Scholar, and PhD Candidate in the department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. His critical and creative works can be found in Canada and Beyond, SX Salon, Wasafiri, The Puritan and more. A born and raised Queeribbean man from the polymorphic island nations of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he now resides in Ontario, Canada. You can read his previous BILD guest post here.
The night is cool, some fifteen minutes past nine. I’m dressed in all blue, navy shorts and a Euro-fit polo shirt. I slip a classic pair of white leather Converses onto my feet. A Sleek and inviting look for yet another evening out on the town. I am heading to dinner in Baie Orientale, Saint Martin, by car. With me is my fiancé and Vincentian partner of fourteen years, Kevin. Accompanying Kevin is his friend of twenty-six years, Michael, a man also born and raised in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who is visiting Saint Martin from the neighbouring Caribbean island-nation of Guadeloupe. Michael has taken a particular liking to Shay, a first-generation Jamaican Canadian, one of my closest friends and confidants since I left Saint Vincent for Canada. Michael and Shay are wrapped up in each other over conversation. Driving the car is Davis, a French-Caribbean local and close friend of Shay’s, now my acquaintance of some ten months. In the passenger seat, opposite Davis, sits his partner, Joshua. Joshua is Anguillan, visiting from the neighbouring island-nation just a fifteen-minute ferry ride away from SXM. The two have been dating for approximately eight months. They are madly infatuated with one another, and the duo steal every opportunity they can find to recite their desires for one another to those sitting behind them.
“…while always travelling seriously, he was always travelling light.” (Williams, 1971, p. 88)
The serious traveller who always travelled light was George Orwell; writing in 1971, socialist critic Raymond Williams unravels Orwell’s multifaceted history and reveals aspects of his life and work I had not known about, in under 100 informative pages. I took the book along with me to India in mid-December 2022 primarily because it was so tiny. I also was attempting to travel light. I hope I may say, to travel seriously as well.
A village in rural West Bengal, India, where as early as February the temperature goes up to 35 degrees Celsius or so every day, with no prospect of rain until April or May, is about as far from a Montreal winter as one can imagine. It’s where I have just spent four weeks working with several gifted and enthusiastic young women who teach at supplemental schools run by a local NGO, the Institute of Social Work (ISW). Like many NGOs across India and in the developing world, ISW works in the local language (here, Bengali) and draws mostly on local resources. My cousin Nupur Sarkar has been part of ISW since its inception in 1978; I am much indebted to her for having made it possible for me to spend time at ISW’s Birbhum-district schools. After a previous visit in 2019, I wrote about the experience here on the BILD blog, and have dreamed ever since then of coming back and staying awhile.
This week’s guest blogger is Ayana Jamieson, PhD. Dr. Jamieson is an assistant professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, a mythologist, and depth psychologist. She is the founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, a global community founded in 2011, committed to highlighting Octavia Butler’s life and work while creating new works inspired by Butler’s legacy. Dr. Jamieson’s, “Far Beyond the Stars” appears in the Black Futures anthology. She has also published in The Feminist Wire, 51 Feminist Thinkers, Uneven Futures: Strategies for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction, Public Books, elsewhere and was a featured speaker at the New York Times “A New Climate” on climate change. Follow her @ayanajamieson @oeblegacy on FB and IG or @oeblegacy on Twitter & Tumblr.
A book can start an entire journey. In my case, the books of the late pioneering Black woman speculative fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler changed the trajectory of my entire life. My origin story related to her work has been shared many times, but I want to talk about what it means to be “raising Olamina” after a character in a book the same age as my non-fictional children. In fact, I used my child’s remote schooling desk to record this interview with NPR’s Throughline Podcast, “Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction” in 2021. Her work explores different ways of being human with diverse and expertly rendered characters.