Talks and Lectures in the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series

Spring 2020 Speakers are:


Thursday, February 13th at 6pm in 153 Rubenstein Library

Dr. Walt Wolfram (NC State University)

Sociolinguistic (In)justice in Higher Education: Solving the Problem We Created  

Notwithstanding the avowed commitment of higher education to equality and inclusion, the issue of language has been excluded from or erased in diversity programs at most universities. This presentation documents the empirical basis of linguistic prejudice and discrimination in higher education through an extensive series of student and faculty interviews in a large metropolitan university. Based on the conclusions, we have developed an innovative, campus-infusion model for language diversity targeting students, faculty, and staff at the university. Activities include integrated classroom materials, videos highlighting linguistic diversity on campus, formal and informal workshops for diverse campus populations, the establishment of a Linguistic Diversity Student Ambassadors program, and other activities and resources that have led to the creation of a national model for authentically including language in the diversity canon in higher education.


Wednesday, March 4that 5:30pm in 153 Rubenstein Library

Dr. Jonathan Rosa (Stanford University)

Latinx Languages and Identities Beyond Borders

The rapid rise of the U.S. Latinx population, now the nation’s largest demographic minority group, has heightened concerns about the future of American identity and brought increased attention to the institutional management of racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Drawing on ethnographic and sociolinguistic research conducted in a predominantly Latinx Chicago public high school and its surrounding communities, this presentation approaches Latinidad as a crucial site from which to analyze the creation of racial, linguistic, and national borders, as well as to reimagine worlds beyond these borders.


Thursday, March 19th at 5:30pm in 217 Perkins Library

Dr. Trina Jones (Duke University School of Law)

DNA-Based Race?  An Exploration of Ancestry Testing and Racial Identity

Abstract: Can genetic tests determine race? Americans are fascinated with DNA ancestry testing services like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. This paper introduces the concept of “DNA-based race” by considering ways in which DNA ancestry tests may affect contemporary understandings of racial identity.  The authors argue that these tests are poor proxies for race because they fail to reflect the defining social, cultural, relational, and experiential norms that form identity. Consequently, the authors strongly caution against defining race in predominantly genetic terms.  The paper addresses three separate legal contexts: (1) employment discrimination, (2) diversity initiatives, and (3) citizenship.


Wednesday, March 25th  at 5:30pm in 217 Perkins Library

Thomas Belt (Western Carolina University)

Endangered Language, Cultural Crisis.

The intrinsic relationship of linguistic expression and a dynamic culture determines the continued existence of a diverse and unique society. 


Please check back for 2020-21 Academic Year Presentations