Language and borders revisited: Colonizing language and deporting voice in Spanish class

  • Adam Schwartz Oregon State University
Keywords: Spanish, Language education, Borders, Whiteness


Spanish language education in the U.S. historically accommodates students who identify with English monolingualism and unmarked Whiteness as a normative cultural order. This distinctive practice relies on the imagination and maintenance of borders, including those realized as international geo-political divisions and discourse within Spanish classrooms themselves (Author, 2014). The present discussion of language ideologies centers student inquiry and discomfort (Boler, 1999) in a basic-level university Spanish classroom; my students’ own narratives and coursework are featured as examples.


(In)visible borders are projected onto bodies and voices imagined to speak Spanish (Urciuoli, 1995), symbolically marking those racially, nationally, and/or ethnically different from White learners. An exercise in “critical photography” encouraged students to locate and disrupt these oppressive discourses in and outside our classroom. I share successes and failures with the ways in which our learning community—as well as other students with whom I’ve worked—reconciled “what counted” as socially-responsive language study.

Author Biography

Adam Schwartz, Oregon State University
Adam Schwartz is an Assistant Professor in the School of Language, Culture & Society at Oregon State University.