The Social Effects of Democratic Engagement of Language Minority Communities: Developing Ownership, Accountability, and Stakeholders of Lingusitic Minorities in a Democracy

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Using the United States political system as a case study, and drawing parallels from similar democracies in South Africa, Israel, Ireland, Canada, and Great Britain, the article will articulate a broad need for a democratic system to accommodate and embrace linguistic diversity. It will emphasize the tangible benefits of such accommodations, such as promoting ownership and accountability among members of disaffected communities, which leads to increased educational engagement and attainment, and a decrease in crime, dropout rates, and disaffected individuals. The proposed model for improving democratic accommodation will include the affirmative provision of assistance from certified translators, increased involvement of language minority community leaders and organizations in promoting engagement, and an increased role for courts in regulating and enforcing accommodations. It will also address issues of anti-immigrant backlash that may increase in the short term, and decrease in the long term, in response to the increased engagement of linguistic minority communities.


Keywords: Language, Diversity, Politics, Engagement, Linguistic Minorities, Democracy
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Jocelyn Friedrichs Benson

Assistant Professor, Law School, Wayne State University Law School
Detroit, MI, USA

Professor Jocelyn Benson joined the faculty at Wayne Law in 2005, after serving as a law clerk to Judge Damon J. Keith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She previously worked for the Democratic National Committee as the National Field Director for Election Protection, and is currently serving as a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Election Law. She graduated from Wellesley College, where she founded the now-annual Women American Political Activism conference and was the first student to be elected to serve in the governing body for the town of Wellesley, the Town Meeting. She subsequently earned her Masters in Sociology as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, conducting research into the sociological implications of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. She received her J.D from Harvard University Law School, where she was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. During her time at Harvard Law, Professor Benson also worked as the Voting Rights Policy Coordinator for the Harvard Civil Rights Project. Professor Benson has also worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and as an investigative journalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Ref: I08P0385