To conclude her combined Master’s in French and Spanish here at George Mason University, Master’s candidate Elsie M. Campbell Hendricks chose to complete her Exit Exam in a set of two essays, one in each language, that each combined and expanded upon the knowledge of two classes that she had previously taken. For the French essay, the candidate based her research on a class about métissage and multiculturalism, and a class about Caribbean literature. What resulted was an exploration of race, identity, historical (re)production, and institutional forgetting in the context of the postcolonial and multilingual literature of Haiti. Grounded in a short story from Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat (2019) and the theories and research of Condé (1995), Trouillot (1995, 2020), Dubois (2012), Gonzalez (2020), and Fick (1990) (among others), this study explored how authors can use their multilingual and multicultural identities to problematize their countries’ histories and combat the existing racial and colonial narratives. Through an investigation into which groups had been silenced in Haitian history, by whom, and to what end, it became clear in Haiti that the writing of history is an intentional process for the benefit of the (neo)colonial hegemonic power. The theory of heteroglossia paired with a critical conception of multiculturalism can be used to interpret the potential of Caribbean multilingual literature to create new identities, new linguistic frameworks, and most importantly, to combat the imposed silence of history.
Her essay in Spanish also explored the issue of multilingualism, but from a different perspective. Based on classes about the history of mass media in Latin America and about sociolinguistics and language contact, her essay was an exploration of identity and multiculturalism in technology and linguistics. Her technology medium of choice was the podcast, contextualized in the history and roles of mass media in Latin America, and her linguistic phenomenon was code-switching (or translanguaging) as a facet of cultural and linguistic identity. As a dialogue between the theories of Bakhtin (1981), Martín-Barbero (1987, 2000, 2006), Anzaldúa (2012), Heise (2014), Zentella (2017), Toribio (2007), Muysken (1997), and Ruiz (1984), among others, Ms. Campbell explored the intersection of the instrumentalist side of both code-switching and podcasts as they relate to identity, and how both offer new ways to access, express, and represent multiculturalism. Through a thematic and linguistic investigation of the podcast Anzaldúing It, she found that when put together, code-switching and podcasts are an empowering source of counter-hegemonic discourses that uplift multilingual and multicultural communities.
May 21, 2021