From truncated to sociopolitical emergence: A critique of super-diversity in sociolinguistics

Nelson Flores 1  and Mark Lewis 1
  • 1 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Nelson Flores and Mark Lewis

Abstract

Sociolinguists have always been leaders in advocating for the legitimacy of all language practices. Recently, sociolinguists have begun to question whether frameworks that have historically been used as part of this advocacy are adequate for describing the language practices that have emerged as part of contemporary globalization. Some scholars have proposed super-diversity as an umbrella term to unite the project of developing a new sociolinguistics of globalization. Though we are sympathetic to the goals of developing new tools for sociolinguistic inquiry, we point to three limitations of the super-diversity literature: (a) its ahistorical outlook; (b) its lack of attention to neoliberalism; and (c) its inadvertent reification of normative assumptions about language. We suggest the concept of sociopolitical emergence as an approach to sociolinguistic research that adopts insights offered by the super-diversity literature while explicitly addressing these limitations. To illustrate this approach, we consider the case of a hypersegregated Spanish/English dual-language charter school in Philadelphia. This case study begins by situating the school within the history of Latinos in the United States and Philadelphia as well as within the contemporary neoliberal political economy. We then analyze emergent linguistic practices and emergent linguistic categories that have been produced within this historical and contemporary context in ways that resist the reification of normative assumptions about language.

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