Mar. 13th, 2014 12:02 pm
ajnabieh: A large orange cat with the text "Christianne Aman-purr, Colbert Report Middle East Correspondent" (amanpurr)
I keep meaning to write a post on academic language differences in Canada/the US (prompted in part by [personal profile] jae continually reminding me I'm marking, not grading, when I'm complaining about sitting in front of a stack of papers), but today isn't that day. Have a link dump of interesting things instead.

TessieMC, The Trigger-Warned Syllabus, which does a good job summarizing why trigger warnings on syllabi are kind of not the point. I've given trigger warnings as a teacher--when potentially triggering material will be dealt with in class and isn't otherwise prefigured by the content. (So when I screened a video about the problems of microfinance that indebted people describing their suicide attempts or the death by suicide of their family members, for instance.) I've also been triggered as a student, by something neither the teacher nor I could have predicted (tl;dr if you are a 16 year old undergoing traumatic life-threatening leg surgeries maybe don't read A Separate Peace, which I still haven't finished, btw). And, when I taught an entire course about political violence, I didn't give a single trigger warning, because the content of the course material was already apparent--we read about people killed by police, we read about riots, we read about genocide, we read about violence against women, and I trusted my students to be aware of what the class was about, to be aware of where their limits were, and to make adjustments if they just couldn't handle some of the material. The course title and the titles of the articles on the syllabus was their own trigger warning, in my mind. So I'm thinking actively about this issue, as someone who supports trigger warnings as a concept and also wants to think about how they can function usefully and not dismissively in different contexts.

On Feminist Philosophers, a faculty member wants advice for how to mentor a minority student who was recruited to a graduate program in ways that sound incredibly ham-handed and offensive, while not being either racist or subscribing to a 'colorblind' philosophy. I've mentioned what I would take into account, but some of you may have opinions on this subject!

Language Log gives some coverage to the language politics of the upcoming provincial elections in Quebec. I don't have anything specific to add, except that the adjective for "belonging to the Parti Quebecois" in French is "pequiste [PQ-iste]" and I think we can all agree that is the literal best political party adjective ever.

Mark Allen Peterson put together a brief primer to Middle Eastern media ecologies. Useful if the term is new to you, useful if the Middle Eastern context is new to you. Media hasn't been a primary area of research for me, but it's becoming one, so I'm absorbing this all as I go.

Kristin Diwan [ profile] kdiwaniya has a good new report on youth activism in the Arab Gulf. As always, I want to insert migration as a variable into all these conversations--what are migrant youth, both Arab and not-Arab, doing politically? Are they a part of Kuwaiti/Saudi/Bahraini/etc movements? Making their own? But the report is an excellent presentation of what's happening in a region where social movements are less studied.

And finally, for my fellow hoopy froods*, The BBC has re-released the Hitchhiker's Guide text game.

*Disclaimer: I am actually not a terribly hoopy frood.
ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
There's a whole list of "totally subtle but surprising things I've noticed since moving to Canada" in my head (did you know that kids' amoxicillan is BANANA flavored here? That's just wrong), but here's one that's particularly odd: the number of students I have whose last names begin with Mc or Mac is really high. Granted, across 110 students, there are only 6 of them, but that's three per class, and that's definitely, like, 4 more than I've ever had at a time. (I also spent a lot of time alphabetizing assignments, so I have to think about last names a lot.)

This made me wonder about relative ethnic makeup. I'm not surprised that I've got more students with obviously francophone last names in Canada than in the US (not least because I teach at a francophone/bilingual university, and a reasonable chunk of my students have French as their primary language), but the Mac/Mc thing is throwing me. Generally, when we think about the European-descended populations of the US and Canada, we tend to assume that they look similar. Do they really, in terms of country/ethnic group of origin?

So I went to Statistics Canada and the US Census Bureau's American FactFinder. FactFinder is great because you can get some pretty specific queries in there; I'm not as experienced at using StatCan for getting data, but I was able to get to ethnic breakdown fairly quickly.

Here's the tally: In the US, 35.7 million people said they had Irish ancestry, 4.2 million said they had Scotch-Irish ancestry, and 5.8 million said they had Scottish ancestry. The ancestry question allows for multiple answers, so we don't know if there's any overlap there. This means that 11.2% of the US population has some Irish heritage, 1.8% has some Scottish heritage, and 1.3% have some Scotch-Irish heritage. Now, obviously not every person with Scottish/Irish heritage has a last name starting with Mac/Mc (says an Irish-American named Regan*), but that gives us a potential universe.

For Canada, the stats are different. 4.7 million Canadians said they had Scottish origins, with 568,000 saying they had only Scottish origins; 4.3 million people said they had Irish origins, with 491,000 saying they had only Irish origins. (Canada doesn't have a Scotch-Irish category.) Now, these numbers are lower than the American ones, but it's important to remember that Canada has a population about 1/10 the size of the US population. So, of the entire population of Canada, 12.2% has at least some Irish heritage, and 13.3% has at least some Scottish heritage. The Irish number isn't much higher, but the Scottish is much higher. So the frequency of individuals with some Scottish or Irish heritage in Canada, as a whole, is likely higher in the US (caveat in place because overlap is always possible).

And, in fact, in Ontario (where the majority of my students are from), the situation is even stronger. There are 2.1 million Ontarians with some Scottish heritage, and 1.98 million with some Irish heritage. Ontario has about a third of Canada's population (the GTA alone has 1/6th, which is freaky), but still, this means that 15.5% of Ontario's population has Scottish origin, and 14.7% has some Irish heritage. In New York State, where I've done all my teaching, it's 1% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, and .3% Scotch-Irish; in Pennsylvania, where I'm from, the Irish proportion is about the same and the Scottish and Scotch-Irish are both equally low.

So, conclusions:

1. Yes, it is not surprising that I'm seeing more Mac/Mc names in my classes than I ever have before, because it's likely that a higher percentage of my students have some Irish and/or Scottish ancestry.
2. While the proportion of people with Irish ancestry in the US vs in Canada is fairly similar (a percentage point is usually inside the margin of error), the number of people with Scottish ancestry is much, much higher in Canada.
3. The ratio of Irish-to-Scottish in Canada is also much closer to 1:1 than it is in the US, where it's, what, 6:1? *does math* Yeah, 6:1 if you take only Scottish and don't count Scotch-Irish.

Without knowing anything, I'm going to guess this has something to do with the dynamics of Canada's relationship to the United Kingdom--whether this was about Irish non-immigration to Canada because of the UK relationship in the 1800s (before formal Irish independence from Britain) or high Scottish immigration to Canada (facilitated by the formal relationship), I can't guess. Of course, I'm sure there are also reasons to do with chain migration, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were immigration-law reasons as well. In other words, it's caused by stuff. (Anyone know the stuff?)

Now I really should start grading...

*Regan is the name of my more-Irish side of the family, which is also the only side of my family to have decent genealogy records**. I'm not terribly into genealogy, but I'm glad to know it when someone else has done the work...

**Fun fact: the only ancestor from Ireland whose entrance details I'm 100% sure...arrived in North American at Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Famine. How she ended up in Glens Falls, New York is anybody's guess. Will that make naturalization easier, do you think?
ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
My son, as a student in the public school system in Ontario, receives daily lessons in French (20 minutes a day in kindergarten, which will become 40 minutes a day from first through sixth grade). French is one of his favorite parts of the day, and he'll frequently say "do you know how to say [word] in French? It's [mot]!" or, say, start counting objects in French. I think this is brilliant, obviously; Ottawa's bilingualism is one of the things I love best about it.

The other day, he said to me, "Mommy, do you know how to say 'see you tomorrow' in French? It's ademay!"

It took a second for me to work out what he said, but I replied cheerfuly, "Yes, it is, à demain! Did you learn that in French class?"

"Mommy, no," he said. "It's ah-deh-may."*

Because he's learning Canadian French, and my French (which people tell me sounds very good) is French French, so he corrects me because I don't sound right.

Which, from his point of view, I don't.

This is going to be a very long process of linguistic acculuration, I think...

*I cannot for the life of me figure out how to render these two words differently so as to communicate the difference. I think the French vowel is quite short and nasalized, while the Canadian final vowel is equally nasal but much rounder and longer? French ah-deh-ma' vs Canadian ah-deh-may-ng? Why can I not properly remember IPA?)
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
First, the fun bit: I have an article in the new (well, earlier-this-week) issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, called Fannish discourse communities and the construction of gender in The X-Files. (That was the original subtitle; the original title is a quote from one of the posts I analyze, and I'll leave you to guess which one.) I've been told it's both accessible and interesting, so there's that. I haven't had a chance to read the rest of the issue yet, but I'm looking forward to Lori Hitchcock Morimoto's piece on fan subjectivities, Shannon Farley's piece on translation theory and fanfic, Craig Norris's piece on fan pilgrimages, and Juli J. Parrish's work on metaphors and meaning. Thanks to the editors who put the edition together--it was a very professional and helpful process throughout, and I appreciated it.

And, random other things from my life:

  • The rentrée/start of the semester is always exhausting. The exhaustion amount goes up when you're teaching new preps. It goes up again when you're at a new institution. Which probably explains why I want to collapse at the end of every work day, and why all I get done on my evening commute is stare blankly at my phone.

  • That being said, I adore my commute: one bus, usually not that crowded (I get on and off far enough on either end that I've always gotten a seat, though sometimes people have to stand), one block from my house, two blocks from my office. The downside: it only comes every 20 minutes, so there's often quite a wait. Luckily I have the timing worked out for the morning commute; I'm sure I'll get better at timing the afternoon commute eventually...

  • Tasks I have managed to master conducting in French: ordering coffee, pastry, or lunch from the really epically delicious café on the first floor of my building; asking for a book I had brought from the off-site facility in the library; introducing myself at a staff meeting. Tasks I have not mastered conducting in French: understanding the full content of a multi-hour staff meeting, most of which I don't have historical context for and sometimes conducted heavily in acronyms. Tasks I have not yet mastered but have shown improvement in: elevator/hallway small talk. It's getting there.

  • Elements of Canadianness I have shown improvement in: paying with a chip card (or even by tapping); being chatty and oversharing with random strangers (I'm a New Yorker, THIS IS VERY DIFFICULT). Elements of Canadianness I have not yet shown much improvement in: understanding exactly where on the milk bag to cut and how then to pour without spilling (I think the organic milk bags from Costco are bigger than our jug); apologizing for things that are someone else's fault; understanding what it means when my thermostat reads 19.

  • Though I don't yet know if I'll do anything with it, I started a tumblr, [ profile] ajnabieh; I figure it might be another ethnographic space for future work, who knows. BUT, the actual fun thing is that I also created a side-tumblr, [ profile] size16skinnyjeans, for my occasional outfit blogging thing. And maybe Thinking Thoughts About Clothes In The Academy. Who knows. If you can think of critical/feminist-y/academic-y fashion blogs I should follow, or things that might be relevant to my research interests, lemme know. Or just, you know, follow me and watch me reblog things...

  • I think that's it for the moment. How are y'all?
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (marxist feminist)
I recently read a report by a group of Canadian academics and community activists on immigration and citizenship policy in the post-9/11 period, called Security and Immigration, Changes and Challenges: Immigrant and Ethnic Communities in Atlantic Canada, Presumed Guilty? (link to PDF). It was an enlightening report, not merely because I know next to nothing about Atlantic Canada. (Let's be real: like most North Americans, my mental image of Canada basically stops at Montreal, and east of that point I have only a vague notion of bears, trees, and Anne of Green Gables.) Much of what was in the report was profoundly similar to immigration politics and policy in the past decade-and-change in the US: Muslim and Arab communities being targeted for state surveillance, an increased securitization of migration policy, and anxiety from migrant communities about what future changes will mean for their ability to remain in Canada, or remain in status.

However, there was an angle that was new to me: the context of the US/Canada relationship. One of the major complaints of the immigrants and immigrant service organizations surveyed by the team was that Canadian immigration policy was becoming more like the US's during this decade. This was particularly disheartening because these new Canadians defined themselves as Canadians-not-Americans. Canada was not supposed to act like the US; it was supposed to prioritize human security and human rights, both in its migration policy and in its treatment of immigrants once they arrive in Canada.

The framework in which I locate my work is that of transnational migration, meaning not just migration that crosses international borders, but migration where people, ideas, and material goods flow back and forth between 'sending countries' and 'receiving countries.' However, this report suggests the importance of third-party countries to migrants' understanding of their own political movements and frameworks. They don't merely form the discourses that structure their political actions from the dialogical relationship between their experiences 'back home' and their experiences in diaspora; instead, they imagine other interlocutors against whom they define their discourses. This is new to me in the literature on transnational migration (which, incidentally, isn't the perspective this report takes--it's firmly rooted in domestic Canadian politics). I'd posit that this is because the literature on transnational migration has been largely about US/Latin America migratory circuits--and that American politics doesn't, very often, define itself against politics in other countries, certainly not the way that Canadian politics positions itself against US politics.

The report also deals in a very interesting way with how freedom is defined and understood by members of Atlantic Canadian immigrant communities; the researchers aimed to elicit meaningful definitions of freedom from their participants, and paint a picture of a very substantive working notion of freedom, which emphasizes fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of movement. It would be interesting to develop a comparative notion of how freedom is defined among dominant and subaltern communities in the US and Canada, considering how both countries make 'freedom' central to self-development.

In any case, I recommend the report if you're interested in ethnic politics in Canada, or broadening your lens on the security state and migration policy outside of either a Eurocentric or American lens. It also has an excellent methods section, which is clear, detailed, and explains enough to really ensure that readers who care about methods understand how the data was collected.


ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
Ajnabieh - The Foreigner

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