New Books Network

Jonathan Rosa

Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race

Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad

Oxford University Press 2019

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in LanguageNew Books in Latino StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network November 4, 2019 Carrie Gillon and Megan Figueroa

Jonathan Rosa‘s new book Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad (Oxford University Press, 2019) examines...

Jonathan Rosa‘s new book Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad (Oxford University Press, 2019) examines the emergence of linguistic and ethnoracial categories in the context of Latinidad. The book draws from more than twenty-four months of ethnographic and sociolinguistic fieldwork in a Chicago public school, whose student body is more than 90% Mexican and Puerto Rican, to analyze the racialization of language and its relationship to issues of power and national identity. It focuses specifically on youth socialization to U.S. Latinidad as a contemporary site of political anxiety, raciolinguistic transformation, and urban inequity.

Rosa’s account studies the fashioning of Latinidad in Chicago’s highly segregated Near Northwest Side; he links public discourse concerning the rising prominence of U.S. Latinidad to the institutional management and experience of raciolinguistic identities there. Anxieties surrounding Latinx identities push administrators to transform “at risk” Mexican and Puerto Rican students into “young Latino professionals.” This institutional effort, which requires students to learn to be and, importantly, sound like themselves in highly studied ways, reveals administrators’ attempts to navigate a precarious urban terrain in a city grappling with some of the nation’s highest youth homicide, dropout, and teen pregnancy rates. Rosa explores the ingenuity of his research participants’ responses to these forms of marginalization through the contestation of political, ethnoracial, and linguistic borders.


Carrie Gillon and Megan Figueroa are the hosts of the terrific The Vocal Fries, a podcast about language and linguistic discrimination. You can find it on Apple Podcasts here