University of Arizona
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My scholarly life is led in English and German—my first language and the language in which I study and teach. I found my way to German through Latin and Ancient Greek and in some sense my love affair with classical philology was an attempt to step out of English. My first travels in the world outside of the Midwestern region of the United States were through new languages and the text worlds they opened for me.
German Studies brought me to the city of Tucson, which sits near the border between Mexico and the United States—a border marked out clearly between walls and patrol stations which is traversed by the Sonoran desert and cultural/linguistic landscapes on either side. My position as a professor of German Studies, Applied Linguistics, and Foreign Language Education at a large state university in Southwestern Arizona has afforded me new opportunities for teaching and researching multilingually. Although the political discourses around this region often prioritize stances of bilingual mediation or confrontation, the reality is much more complex than the presumed English/Spanish divide. The largely rural, formerly Mexican, and formerly Native lands of Southern Arizona thrive in and through an emergent constellation of languages. Native Southwestern, Latin American, European, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian languages. My encounters with individuals here both within and without the university sphere regularly remind me of the precarity of linguistic propriety and the contingency of authenticity claims—for example, the Navajo student, who was—in her own mind—deprived of learning her native language, so who chooses instead to learn German, because it (as opposed to Spanish) was a language of marked distinction in Southern Arizona or the Mexican-American student who devotes her life to the study of Francophone literature, because it offers her participation in a space of contested dialectal identities in which she pleasurably has no biographical stake.
My own work focuses on multilingualism and literacy. In particular I am interested in literacy practices, as social sites of potential struggle, affiliation, resistance, and play. Through their interactions with texts, languages users negotiate meanings and subjectivities, the aesthetic, affective and practical dimensions of literacy practices, and how they are evaluated and valued by readers in various positions, including those along axes of nativeness and nonnativeness.