Bilingual BrokersRace, Literature, and Language as Human Capital

Bilingual BrokersRace, Literature, and Language as Human Capital

Jeehyun Lim

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780823275304

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Bilingual Brokers examines bilingual personhood in Asian American and Latino literature through social debates on bilingualism. Instead of arguing for or against bilingualism this study focuses on the contingencies under which bilingualism is taken as good or bad to bring into high relief the function of language as capital in these debates. Behind the discourse of American identity, economic calculations and rationale played a significant role in challenging the long-held popular view of bilingualism as a liability. The emergence and recognition of Asian American and Latino literature take place against the backdrop of these debates on bilingualism as the place where social anxieties about American identity in the face of new immigration and globalization are worked out. Interweaving the social significance of language as human capital and the literary significance of English as the language of cultural capital, Bilingual Brokers traces a structure of feeling around the dual meaning of bilingualism as liability and asset in Asian American and Latino literature. In literary representations, bilingual personhood illustrates a regime of flexible inclusion where an economic calculus of value for racialized subjects crystallizes at the intersections of language and racial difference and is used in deliberations of social worthiness. By pointing to the nexus of race, capital, and language as the focal point of negotiations of difference and inclusion, Bilingual Brokers probes liberalism’s fault lines for racialized subjects.