Speaking Race: An Analysis of Linguistic Profiling and Ethnoracial Development among Dominican(-American) Youth
Aris Clemons

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Research Development Award

Award Year



University of Texas at Austin

Primary Discipline

A significant portion of the 1.7 million Dominican-Americans in the United States is under the age of 18. This presence has shifted the contemporary demographic and linguistic landscape of many classrooms, particularly in the cities where Dominicans have historically settled. While popular discourses of growing ?Hispanic' populations have prompted calls for culturally responsive pedagogies, rarely have these appeals problematized the heterogeneous nature of the group itself. Dominican children, who are of mixed Spanish and African ancestry, are placed in a precarious position, as they are thrust into a pan-ethnic, Hispanic category while simultaneously being raced as black. Furthermore, efforts in bilingual education and heritage language studies have ignored the complexity of Dominicans' repertoires, which comprise multiple stigmatized dialects of Spanish and English. The present dissertation critically analyzes the ways in which racial and linguistic profiling affect Dominican-born and Dominican-origin pupils, their inter-ethnic conflicts, and their understandings of Blackness in the U.S. context. The project employs mixed methods?sociolinguistic, experimental, and ethnographic?to contend with historical formations of power, the ethno-racial identifications, and the language production and profiling of Dominican-American male adolescents within a northeastern high school. Students' identities and language use are interpreted through the analytical lens of raciolinguistics in order to reveal the ways that teacher and institutional practices are implicated in the making of ethno-racial identity. As envisioned, the work portends real life implications for a growing population of students in U.S. classrooms.
About Aris Clemons
Aris Clemons is a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as well as a graduate portfolio student in the Mexican American and Latina/o Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her MA in linguistic theory from Syracuse University in 2012 and continued her career as a high school Spanish teacher and administrator in Brooklyn, NY until the start of her doctoral studies at UT Austin in 2016. Originally from the San Francisco bay area, Aris was raised by a group of social activists who significantly impacted her commitment to justice for both linguistically and racially minoritized students. This formation has spurred her interest in culturally sustaining pedagogies as well as her commitment to mentoring students traditionally underrepresented in the academy. As a doctoral student she has had the opportunity to work as a Teaching Assistant for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and recently designed and taught a course entitled Racial Linguistics. As a scholar of language and race, her research examines how socially constructed categories are concretized in the public psyche. In particular, her work explores the impact of racial and linguistic ideologies and attitudes on the construction of ?self' at the individual and community level. Drawing on data from members of the emergent pan-ethnic grouping of Afro-Latinxs, her research problematizes racial and linguistic essentializations that result in the marginalization and further erasure of certain identities and the (re)constitution of colonially formed social hierarchies within educational contexts.

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