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Conferences & lectures

#BlackLivesMatter → #OurLanguagesMatter

Black History Month at Concordia

Date & time
Thursday, February 25, 2021
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Registration is closed


Michel DeGraff, professor of linguistics (MIT)


This event is free


Concordia Centre for Cognitive Science and Black Perspectives Office


Charles Reiss



The Black Perspectives Office and the Centre for Cognitive Science present a public lecture by Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT).


Michel DeGraff, linguist (MIT)

As a creolist who works on language and education for social justice, 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.

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