Leeman2004-JLP (census-linguistic ideol)

Leeman2004-JLP (census-linguistic ideol) - Racializing...

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Journal of Language and Politics 3:3 (2004), 507–534 . issn 1569–2159 / e-issn 1569–9862 © John Benjamins Publishing Company Racializing language A history of linguistic ideologies in the US Census* Jennifer Leeman George Mason University This article builds on research on institutional language policies and practic- es, and on studies of the legitimization of racial categories in census data col- lection, in an exploration of language ideologies in the US Census. It traces the changes in language-related questions in the two centuries of decennial surveys, contextualizing them within a discussion of changing policies and patterns of immigration and nativism, as well as evolving hegemonic notions of race. It is argued that the US Census has historically used language as an index of race and as a means to racialize speakers of languages other than English, constructing them as essentially different and threatening to US cultural and national identity. Keywords: Census, race, racialization, national identity, language ideology Censuses play a key role in the definition of national and group identities, and they are closely linked to the assignation and legitimation of political power. Recent studies of the US Census have investigated the ways in which the de- lineation of official race categories has both reflected hegemonic ideologies of difference and been implicated in the legal and social racialization of people marked as different (e.g., Nobles 2000; Rodríguez 2000). However, studies of official racial identities generally have not looked at the role of language and language ideologies, a lacuna which this examination of the US Census lan- guage questions is designed to address. As this analysis will show, hegemonic ideologies of language, and of the relationships among language, race, and na- tional identity, have played an important role in the US Census’s official con- struction of difference.
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508 Jennifer Leeman The present study builds on research regarding the relationship of insti- tutional policies and practices to language ideologies (e.g., Silverstein 1996; Woolard 1998), and on historical examinations of language ideologies in the US (e.g., Bonfiglio 2002; Pavlenko 2002; Ricento 1998; Wiley 2000), as well as on studies of the legitimization of racial categories in census data collection (e.g., Kertzer and Arel 2002; Nobles 2000; Rodríguez 2000). My interrelated goals are to explore how the US Census has reflected and propagated specific ideologies of language, and to contribute to an understanding of official con- structions of race and of American identity. Because debates over immigra- tion and citizenship policies (like censuses) play a key role in the “race-making process” (Carter, Green and Halpern 1996), I contextualize the examination of language questions within a discussion of changing policies and patterns of im- migration and nativism, as well as evolving hegemonic notions of race. I argue that the US Census has historically used language as an index of race and as a
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