Public lecture, 2/25 — Michel DeGraff at Concordia

Black History Month at Concordia, the Black Perspectives Office, and the Centre for Cognitive Science present a public lecture by Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT)
#BlackLivesMatter → #OurLanguagesMatter
Language rights are HUMAN rights—in Haiti and beyond

When: Thursday Feb. 25 at 18:00
Where: Zoom—register here to receive the meeting ID and passcode
Who: Open to the university community and the general public

Abstract: As a creolist who works on language and education for social justice (http://MIT-Ayiti.NET http://Haiti.MIT.edu), I continuously puzzle at the vast array of educators, activists, intellectuals, politicians, etc., who fail to realize that language rights are at the core of human rights. This puzzlement will take us to my native Haiti and other outposts of Empire where we can document spectacular violations of linguistic rights in the course of knowledge production and in the workings of human-rights organizations. We’ll highlight the persistent incoherence in these patterns throughout history… Or perhaps there’s a logic (a colonial racist logic?) to this apparent madness. In this talk, I’ll take Haiti and Creolistics as twin case studies to try and understand the genesis of these human-rights violations as part of the history of colonization and slavery. Then I’ll present one specific and concrete set of “direct actions” (à la Martin Luther King Jr.) that we linguists and educators can take toward a constructive forward-looking resolution of these violations. Here our case study is the MIT-Haiti Initiative where we’re helping to usher a paradigm shift in the perception and use of Haitian Creole as a key tool for universal access to quality education and for the respect of human rights in Haiti. We hope, perhaps with too much optimism, that our MIT-Haiti Initiative, in spite of its obvious limitations (after all, MIT is part of the Global North), can serve as one among other models that can help the Global South recover, and perhaps even escape, from imperialism and racism.

Dr. Michel DeGraff is a Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Director of MIT-Haiti Initiative. This talk is sponsored by the Black Perspectives Office and the Centre for Cognitive Science, with support from Concordia’s INDI Program, Linguistics Program and Linguistics Student Association.

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