U.S. Black Vernacular Spanish(es): Towards Hemispheric Black Language Pedagogies in Spanish World Language Classrooms
Aris Clemons

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Tennessee

Primary Discipline

Drawing on a rich tradition of linguistic activism that has resulted in the definition and introduction of Black U.S. English into classroom spaces, the current project argues for the existence and vitality of Black U.S. varieties of Spanish as integral to the linguistic development of Black students in world language programs. Using a variety of qualitative methods, the project traces Black Spanish development through transnational hemispheric Black language processes and sustained contact between (Black) Spanish speakers and African American English speakers. For Black students, who have consistently been marked as deficient language users (Sledd, 1969; Baker-Bell, 2020; Smitherman, 2017), the Spanish classroom often represents a space of “unbelonging”. Recognizing U.S. Spanish classrooms as a place of Black unbelonging, the study aims to reduce and disrupt the raciolinguistic ideologies that mark Black U.S. Spanish(es) as non-existent, broken or incomplete and its users as deficient, low-class or uneducated. Importantly, through the development of a Black Spanish resource book for world language teachers, the project argues for Hemispheric Black Language Pedagogies, which provides Black students with knowledges and histories of Black language practices with the aim of destigmatizing the language practices of Black Spanish speakers so that they can fully participate in the benefits of bilingualism and are able to perform their identities without reproach.
About Aris Clemons
Clemons, Aris
Aris Clemons is an assistant professor of Hispanic Linguistics in the department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Aris was raised by 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 and her commitment to mentoring students traditionally underrepresented in the academy. Her research agenda is rooted in social change through an examination of the ways that what appears to be common knowledge is often constructed and ideologically maintained by various social institutions. 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. Her work appears in Language (2021), Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics (2022), Journal of Spanish Language Teaching (2021, 2023), and Critical Multilingualism Studies (2024) amongst others. She has also received multiple awards including an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Spencer Dissertation Research Award, and a Department of Education Grant for the development of an open access Spanish Curricula for Black students.

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