Barbara Fuchs, the 2021–22 president of the MLA, has chosen Multilingual US as the presidential theme for the 2022 MLA Annual Convention in Washington, DC.
The MLA can play a crucial role in imagining and supporting a linguistically diverse commons, to make language a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion. For those who care about the humanities, exploring and promoting multilingualism is one of the most significant contributions we can make to a diverse public sphere. At the same time, reconstructing multilingual roots productively complicates the history of the nation-state—particularly for the United States but also for many other polities, especially settler nations whose indigenous and interimperial pasts have been occluded. Our theme for the year is thus contemporary and historical—an invitation to highlight the importance of contemporary multilingualism, while attending to the complex histories and erasures that have led to our present condition.
Multilingualism occurs in many spaces, both within and beyond the university. In keeping with the admirable recent focus of the MLA on the public humanities, I want to emphasize not just scholarly and pedagogical practices of multilingualism but the ways that MLA members can support a rich ecology of languages in their communities as in their institutions. How can our expertise promote multilingualism across civic spaces—in schools, in public libraries, and in cultural, political, and artistic arenas? How do we make room for linguistic diversity not as an accommodation but as a constitutive feature of the commons?
Sessions for the convention may wish to focus on language justice; multilingualism in poetry, theater, and other forms; strategies for multilingual access in various settings; multilingualism and the public, urban, and digital humanities; multilingual medical humanities; multilingualism and history; pedagogic approaches to multilingualism, including at the K–12 level; translation, interpretation, and activism; bilingual education; multilingual approaches to national literatures; preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages; sign languages and embodied communication; scholarly collaborations across languages and disciplines; public humanities projects that engage multiple languages; and more.
Visit the MLA website to post a call for papers for the 2022 convention.