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School of Languages, Cultures, and Race College of Arts and Sciences

Message from the Director

Message from the Director (Spring 2022)

Some Reflections on Juneteenth:

Last year, after passing successfully through the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Biden, Juneteenth (June 19th) became an official Federal Holiday. Before that, the majority of the states (45 of them) had recognized the date as an important marker in U.S. history and some even had festivities and celebrations, but there was no national, coherent message that acknowledged its importance.

This year, as we mark the date with a work and class holiday and the entire country observes the “new” holiday, I would like to point out that it took over 155 years for the U.S. as a country to get in a page that officially observes, acknowledges, and celebrates the end of chattel slavery. The length of time is significant, as the end of slavery in the US came after over 200 years of humans owning humans, culminating in a devastating civil war. Since the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, approximately 6 generations of Americans have been taught that slavery had been a sad chapter of American History, but were not helped to mark, reflect on, and celebrate the importance of its ending (the very thing that holidays are supposed to do).

This coming Monday 20th is the first time the entire country is taking a moment to celebrate Juneteenth together as an official holiday. As we do so, we should reflect on what the date has meant for Black folks in the country (since they or their ancestors learned about emancipation as late as two years after the Proclamation), and what it should mean for all of us today. We should also seek to understand why it took so long for this country to acknowledge the historical importance of the date. So, yes, let us celebrate this important date in our history. But, let’s also be aware that the fact that we failed to acknowledge the meaning of the date for so long is also worthy of consideration.

With all that, I wish everyone a happy Juneteenth celebration!

Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo, Ph.D.
Director
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A Statement on the War the Russian Government Brought to Ukraine

(Published on 2.28.2022, Revised on 3.1.2022)

I begin this statement by putting my cards on the table: I am not an expert on foreign/international affairs, on Russia, the former Soviet Union, or Ukraine. I’m not an expert on war, nor am I an expert on diplomacy.

I am, however, a scholar who studies imperialism in all its forms (mainly political, economic, historical, and cultural) and one who is immersed in teasing out, understanding, and studying inequalities and power differentials. I am also someone who is deeply invested in fairness and the inevitability of social change. I do not subscribe to the notion that life is fundamentally or intrinsically unfair and as a result we should all shrug our shoulders and continue to live our lives accordingly. Social structures, social institutions, and social groups make the lives of many unfair. But that is not unchangeable. Quite the contrary. If people hadn’t challenged the notion of an statically unfair life, we wouldn’t have had abolitionists. We wouldn’t have had workers fighting for a living wage, for a work week that allowed for rest and spending time with family, and for the elimination of child labor. And we wouldn’t have had different groups demanding the right to vote in democracies, and for better democratic processes altogether. History offers example after example of this.

Nothing that the previously excluded denizens and citizens of a political entity are able to enjoy today has come to fruition because of the good will of those in power. Everything we all enjoy in the US, for example, we enjoy because someone before us fought for it. That means that although our political and social structures and institutions, and the groups that want to preserve them as they exist may make life unfair, we, the people, are also the ones who effect change.

I have been following what’s going on in Ukraine, trying to keep up with some of what the talking heads, scholars, intellectuals, and activists (those who are experts on those things I am not) have been saying about the war the Russian government brought to Ukraine. I have also been looking at the footage of Ukrainian women fleeing with their babies, with their pets, with anguished faces that betray their fear, the sense of uncertainty that now permeates their very existence and that of their family and friends. People who up to two weeks ago were living their regular lives in their city, their country find themselves in a different world today.

One puzzling aspect of this event for me has been seeing both the right and the left in the US do the bidding for the Russian government, blaming NATO for its invasion of Ukraine. As if. A (perhaps, hopefully) small faction of the anti-imperialist left and the “don’t tread on me” right are, on this issue, two sides of the same weird and devalued Russian Ruble. But, as small as these two groups may be, they create a really bizarre confluence that is rather telling, for it shows that whatever individualist ideals formed the ideological underpinnings of US politics, can be found on everyone regardless of political leanings.

So, here’s what I will say about this “NATO made Russia do it” nonsense: NATO is indeed an imperialistic force and a force used by empires to maintain their power, no question about that. But NATO did not make/force/compel the Russian government to invade Ukraine. NATO did not bring bombs to Ukraine that can suck the air out Ukrainians’ lungs and fill them with fire instead. NATO also did not bring to Ukraine bombs that spread for miles into tiny little hand-grenade-like killing artifacts that indiscriminately exterminate life. And NATO didn’t say that if Russia doesn’t exist there is no reason for anything else to exist, while stroking its nuclear arsenal.

A bit clearer for those who are still not clear of what I’m saying: In the scenario that’s unfolding before our eyes, no one (and that includes NATO) turned Putin into a war criminal. He did that himself, and the Ukrainian people are paying for it while intellectuals debate when the “conflict” really “began.” Again, as if.  What we are witnessing are the maneuvers of a wealthy, greedy imperialist seeking to convert what is back into what was by using the most horrific methods we have seen in a while. Wanting to go back in time to a former glory that he knows has long gone.

The Russian government brought war on Ukraine on February 2022. Period. I am not going to entertain any hedging on this. No “but we really need to look at…” or “What if we reset the clock to…” or any other idea that partially or fully exonerates Putin from embodying the most painfully  human incarnation of the word monster. Don’t get me wrong, history and context are always important. But so is the acknowledgement that someone is in the wrong without having to resort to tired narratives. And there is no looking into or resetting any clock that will explain the sheer cruelty being experienced by Ukrainians in their own land.

Finally, my heart goes out to Ukrainians (both in Ukraine and elsewhere) and to the Russian people many of whom do not want this war, but who will also have to live with its consequences. I see the footage of Ukrainian civilians taking up arms and defending their home and families and see the footage of Russians protesting their government, and as scared as I am for all of them (because I know they will all face consequences, many the ultimate consequence), I am also heartened by the spirit of fight and change that they represent. May the forces of righteousness be with them and their fighting spirits.

Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race
Professor, Comparative Ethnic Studies and American Studies and Culture

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(Fall 2021)

Dear Faculty and Staff, Students, Alumni, and broader WSU Community:

It is with a lot of excitement and some carry-over guarded optimism and trepidation that I welcome you to the 2021-2022 academic year. I would also like to take a moment to welcome our new faculty members: Alejandro Ramírez, Assistant Professor of Spanish and CES, and Raelene Wyse, Lecturer of Spanish, both in the Pullman campus. We are also welcoming our new cohort of 2 American Studies and Culture PhD students, Andre Diehl and Kyle Serrott, to our fold. We are very excited to have you all be part of our School.

We begin our academic year returning to in-person instruction imperfectly, after 2 ½ semesters and two full summers of remote teaching, and with the specter of a global pandemic still affecting our lives and re-asserting itself. We had a modified version of our awards ceremony in the Spring marking the end of the previous academic year, and we had an ice cream social outside of Thompson to mark the beginning of the school year (in lieu of our usual potluck and get together). Slowly we are beginning to see and interact with each other again, even through the fog of masks. I am excited (but also a tad horrified) about being at the office and seeing our vibrant building come to life again, with the daily bustle of students, faculty, and staff.

Last year was difficult, uncomfortable, even painful at times. Even so, our faculty taught and learned, published, presented their work in new formats, and became better scholars because of it. Our advisors once again worked tirelessly to guide students and get them registered in our courses and through their respective programs. And our staff had to provide support to faculty, students, alumni, and others online, in person, and on the phone.

This year we begin our academic journey with Critical Race Theory being debated, misrepresented, and demonized in public fora around the country. We also continue to hear arguments about the futility of a liberal arts education and continue to witness misguided efforts in favor of English only education and legislation. None of this is new, but it does continue to be reactivated and reanimated in our current social climate.

Thus, the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race at Washington State University must double down in its unwavering commitments to its mission of studying the effects of culture, ethnicity, race, and race relations and advancing understandings about the social production and influence of languages and cultural practices, while advancing a vision of critical literacy and intercultural engagement. Under our current social predicament our mission has become all the more important, it has become an imperative, one that seeks and demands justice.

So, once again, let’s work for a better present and an even better future!

Wishing everyone light, wisdom, and health during our new academic year,
Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race
Professor, Comparative Ethnic Studies and American Studies and Culture

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(March 18, 2021)

For close to a year, the former US President called COVID-19 the China virus and the Kung Flu.  CNN reported that “according to the organization Stop AAPI Hate with a total of 3,795 complaints received over the past year. The majority of these — 68% — were verbal harassment, while 11% involved physical assaults.” The latter ones include murders and beatings. And then, there’s the massacre of multiple massage workers in Atlanta this week. All this recent hateful activity against AAPI communities has a context, a history that includes repeated immigration laws of exclusion (the first as early as 1882), aimed at regulating both migration flow and labor from Asia, laws excluding Asians from owning land (the so-called Alien Land Laws), and citizenship exclusion. There was also that horrific chapter in American history that led the government to send Americans of Japanese descent to internment camps on the U.S. West Coast during WW II.

This is part of the historical backdrop of minimization and exclusion, a general sense that Asians do not belong or are foreign/alien to this country, that allows someone to, one day as if out of the blue and almost casually, gun down Asian women in a U.S. city. The fact that a police officer was willing to describe this atrocious event as someone “having a bad day” is also part of this history of minimizing and excluding Asian lives from the social landscape of the U.S. The loss of 8 lives described as someone having a bad day is a sheer dismissal of lives and the irrevocability of death. You can recover from a bad day, but you cannot bring 8 dead people back.

In the end, the history of AAPI exclusion was deathly manifested in a U.S. city this week. And we all need to learn from that.

Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race

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(January 2021)

As an American citizen who is the Director of a unit that includes American Studies and Culture as well as Comparative Ethnic Studies, and as the Spring semester is about to start, I feel obligated to make a statement about the spectacle that we witnessed in this country on January 6, 2021. As a Puerto Rican, I grew up in the interstices and periphery of both Latin America and the United States. That positionality gave me a unique perspective on our hemisphere and taught me enough to recognize a de facto attempt at changing a democratically elected government. Protesting is a right granted to all who reside in the United States by the Constitution. Stopping or interfering with the process of democracy is not. These events should remind us that we have a collective responsibility to make sure our students understand that a patriot is not made by the waving of a flag, for terrorists wave flags too. Distinctions are important. Decency is important. Democracy is important. And while we continue to maneuver the current situation and its repercussions and fallout, I can only hope that the principles and the spirit of democracy prevail.

If the events of January 6, 2021 showed us anything is that who “we” are as a country at the beginning of 2021 is not who “we” should be. Ever. But it is who “we” have been for a long time. We also got a jolting reminder that democracy is fragile and it must be (re)created everyday by the words and actions of its denizens. As we do that, we must also provide alternative visions and understandings showing that a different version of our current society and a different world are possible. Since the unit I direct also includes the study of Languages, I would like to advocate for a version where the weaving of language and history has more weight than bullets and violence. One where communicating frustrations and disappointments is done through words. Where words are held as accountable as actions because they inflict as much damage. But different from violent actions, words and language can be magnificent and create an equally magnificent world. It is in that spirit that I finish this statement with the repurposed words of late educator Howard Zinn: “They have the guns, we have the poets. Therefore, we will win.”

Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race
Professor, Comparative Ethnic Studies

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(Fall 2020)

Dear Faculty and Staff, Students, Alumni, and broader WSU Community:

It is with some trepidation and guarded optimism that I welcome you to the 2020-2021 academic year. I would also like to take a moment to welcome our new faculty (1 Assistant Professor, 3 lecturers, and 2 adjunct instructors) and our incoming cohort of 5 Ph.D. students in American Studies and Culture to our fold. We are very excited to have you all be part of our School.

We begin our semester in the most unusual of circumstances, with all our classes being conducted on a remote teaching and learning format and with the weight of a global pandemic resting on everyone’s shoulders. We were not able to have our awards ceremony in the Spring, which would have marked SLCR’s end of the 2019-2020 academic year, and were not able to have our beginning of the year get together, which would have marked SLCR’s beginning of the school year, so in a way it feels that the previous year didn’t quite finish, and this one isn’t starting quite right. The fact that I won’t be seeing the faculty, the staff, and the students everyday in our beautiful building is another reminder that our daily lives are different, at least for the time being.

However, within this uncommon landscape, I am still proud of our faculty, our advisors, our students, and our staff. Our faculty worked over the summer (without compensation) to develop the best techniques for engaging and interacting with students in their courses. Our advisors worked tirelessly on getting students registered in our courses, and staff had to pivot (quite a few times) trying to provide support to faculty and students throughout the summer and for the Fall. In the midst of all that, faculty still received grants, published work, and engaged in other research activities.

I would also like to acknowledge the present moment in U.S. race relations and its connection to our history as a country by invoking the prescient words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who told us that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And, in the interest of self-reflection, of looking ahead while looking backwards, historical continuities, and making sense of our current circumstances, I would also like to share the biting words of Latin American (Uruguayan) writer Eduardo Galeano: “Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.”

Thus, as the new academic year begins, the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race at Washington State University must continue its unwavering commitments to its mission of studying the effects of culture, ethnicity, race, and race relations and advancing understandings about the social production and influence of languages and cultural practices, while advancing a vision of critical literacy and intercultural engagement. Under our current social predicament our mission has become all the more important, it has become an imperative, one that seeks light and demands justice.

So let’s work for a better present and an even better future!

Wishing everyone light and wisdom,
Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race
Professor, Comparative Ethnic Studies

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(July 2020)

On Monday, July 6, 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an order about international students. Mainly, according to the order, international students “attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” The order specifically stipulates that international students in the United States whose schools have decided to offer online-only classes in the Fall 2020 semester must leave the United States. For details about the order go here.

As Director of the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race, I must always uphold its values, including competency in world cultures and languages, cultural understandings of race and race relations, inclusivity and respect for all cultures and national backgrounds, and a true understanding of cultural diversity. I believe the order issued by ICE, the obvious result of fear and even xenophobia, speaks against those values at the expense of our international students and their contributions to the US economy and culture (mainly, international students contribute $41 billion dollars to the US economy every year, universities and research programs depend on revenue from international students, and STEM companies thrive and depend on global talent educated by our universities). In addition, and because of the possible economic strain the order may put universities under, they may feel compelled to operate face to face, risking the health of students, faculty, and staff.

These are difficult times and we should be supporting each other and our students, not trying to make things more difficult. Students deserve better. Thus, I am in support of any efforts seeking ICE to change their directive, including the following online petition, and the lawsuit against ICE filed by Harvard and MIT.

In solidarity,

Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director
School of Languages, Cultures, and Race

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(Summer 2020)

Those of us who study race and American culture understand that the violence behind the killing of George Floyd by police officers was not the result of “four bad apples.” All four officers, who had been trained and were acting on behalf of the State, collectively, saw nothing wrong with asphyxiating a Black man to death. This behavior is the result of a society that has historically, consistently, and systematically devalued the lives of Black Americans. Racial inequity and racial(ized) state violence are the logical extensions of such devaluing. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it presents us with another display of racial inequity as the death toll within communities of color (especially Black and Latinx communities) is staggering. The massive loss of employment within the lowest-wage earners, and the fact that many of those who work in the service industry are workers of color add to this history of systemic racism. Racialized state-sponsored violence must be condemned, documented, and protested. We must also continue our task of furthering principles of social justice in the classroom, the page, and the streets while creating safe spaces for the members of our community who are suffering the consequences of our history.

In Solidarity,

Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director
School of Languages, Cultures, and Race

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(Spring 2020–SLCR in the Times of COVID-19)

The School of Languages, Cultures, and Race urges all members of its community—our students, faculty and staff—to be safe and stay safe during this unprecedented time. We are now under a State Executive Order to stay in our homes, but we are all still working toward our common goal of delivering a high-quality CES instruction and language education together. Our faculty worked extremely hard over the Spring Break to be ready for the process of distance learning. On March 24, 2020 they began with this new format.

Considering the difficulties that lie ahead, I would encourage everyone (students, faculty, and staff) to practice empathy and compassion toward each other. If you are a student experiencing financial difficulties, we encourage you to call the Office of the Dean of Students and inquire about its Student Emergency Fund ( 335-5757 or deanofstudents@wsu.edu). We also encourage you to stay in touch with your classmates and your professors–make sure you communicate with your professors. This is of utmost importance.

And for everyone: Let’s continue to use social media to stay in touch with each other and to tell our stories, as we develop new ways of working and new ways of learning. Academics are consecrated storytellers, and we need to tap into that particular skill set right now to document this new reality as it unfolds.

Stay safe and be well,

Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Director
School of Languages, Cultures, and Race

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(Fall 2019)

Dear Students, Alumni, and Wider WSU Community:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race (SLCR). We just celebrated our first year of existence! SLCR was the result of faculty in Comparative Ethnic Studies and Foreign Languages and Cultures coming together to create a unit dedicated to the study of language and cultural production, as well as social justice and social transformation.

The process leading to the formation of the school took two years and the result brought together students and faculty at four WSU campuses (Pullman, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Global) interested in a diverse array of academic areas and fields of inquiry: African American studies; Asian Pacific American studies; cultures of Europe, Latin America, and Asia; embodiment; ethnic/racial and cultural identity; food justice, language acquisition; language pedagogy; Latina/o Studies; linguistics; literatures from around the world; popular culture and cultural productions in the U.S. and around the globe (including cultural texts, film, media, television, and sports); rhetoric on race and racism; theories of race and ethnicity; and textual translations.

Today, SLCR offers a bachelor of arts degree in comparative ethnic studies, and bachelor of arts degrees in foreign languages and cultures including Chinese, French, German (as a second major), international studies, Japanese, and Spanish. Options for minors include American Indian studies, Chinese, comparative ethnic studies, French area studies, film, German, global studies, Japanese, Latin American area studies, popular culture, and Spanish.

SLCR also offers a doctorate in American Studies.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the school staff who manage so many of the day-to-day details and will be integral to keeping the school functioning properly: Tom Forbes, Sherley Alvarez, Kris Rollins, Melissa Bills, and Ben Weller. I would also like to acknowledge our advisors Anna Chow, Laurie Heustis, and Alma Rocha for the amazing work they do. Finally, thanks to Lauren Jasmer, Daniel Liera-Huchim, Amira Albagshi, and Maddie Goebel, who worked with us at different stages as the School was forming and developing.

During our first year, we started working on making changes to both the undergraduate and graduate curricula, including a heavy restructuring of the American Studies Ph.D. program, of which we are very proud. On our second year, we will continue to work on restructuring curricula and developing our own identity. We want SLCR to become a leading example in successful interdisciplinary collaboration and coexistence, a premier research and scholarly hub in the humanities and social sciences.

Please stop by to see us and share your thoughts!

Sincerely,

Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo, Ph.D.
Director, School of Languages, Cultures, & Race
Professor, Comparative Ethnic Studies and American Studies