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Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199812981
ISBN-10: 0199812985
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Articulate While Black brilliantly dissects the politics of language as embedded in the politics of race...The beautiful thing about [the book] is that it breaks down Obama's oral signifying...and helps us to navigate the complexities of Black linguistic habits and the complications of Black rhetoric writ large... Alim and Smitherman do a great deal of switching themselves, sliding from dense academic prose to streetwise vernacular, proving they are brilliant examples of the very practice they dissect...In the process, [they] leave little doubt about the cogency of their argument: that without being a past master of Black (American) rhetoric, Obama wouldn't be president of the United States."
--Michael Eric Dyson, University Distinguished Professor of Sociology, and author of Debating Race


"A fabulously original work! Two of America's leading authorities on Black Language and Culture draw on their expertise and extensive scholarship to profoundly reshape the national conversation on race--by "languaging" it. In complicating compliments about President Obama's "articulateness," they brilliantly analyze his artful use of language--and America's response to it--as a springboard to consider larger, thought-provoking questions about language, education, power and what Toni Morrison has referred to as "the cruel fallout of racism." Few sociolinguists tackle these complex issues with as much insight, sophistication, and downright directness as Alim and Smitherman. As they firmly conclude, it's time to change the game - and this book does just that."
--John R. Rickford, J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University, and co-author of Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English


"A sweeping ethnographic and linguistic tour de force that moves between popular culture and political culture with unprecedented academic verve. Daps to Alim and Dr. G."
--T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Distinguished Professor, Vanderbilt University, and editor of The Speech: Race and Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union"


"The game done changed, and it looks like the iconic figure of Barack Hussein Obama read through the formidable critical lens of leading sociolinguists H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman. Trafficking in the very linguistic style-shifting that the duo charge President Obama with, Articulate While Black is a groundbreaking and definitive exploration of the cultural meaning of the nation's first Black President."
--Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University, author of New Black Man


"Sociolinguists Alim and Smitherman bring dual backgrounds as educators and activists to this metalinguistic analysis of 'racially loaded cultural-linguistics controversies' about Obama, or as they so deftly say, 'we're gonna talk about the talk about the way Barack Obama talks.' Even as their style and tone reflect their command of and respect for the vernacular, their substantial research reflects an equal affinity for the professionally academic... It takes some patience to hang in with the authors' own vernacular, but the reward is a heightened sense of 'the complexity and richness of Black language' and significant insight into Obama's 'mastery of Black cultural modes of discourse' that were 'crucial to his being elected... president.'"--Publishers Weekly


"...Obama's mere presence in the White House inspires national conversations about race and citizenship. H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman's new book, Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. offers a refreshing take on how language informs those conversations." --Truthdig


About the Author


H. Samy Alim is Associate Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Anthropology and Linguistics at Stanford University, where he directs the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Language (CREAL) and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA). Some of his most recent books include You Know My Steez, Roc the Mic Right, Talkin Black Talk, and Global Linguistic Flows. He has also written for various media outlets, including The New York Times, Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), and The Philadelphia New Observer, among others.

Geneva Smitherman is University Distinguished Professor Emerita of English, Co-Founder and Core Faculty, African American and African Studies, and Core Faculty, African Studies Center, at Michigan State University. She is a pioneering scholar-activist in the struggle for language rights and for Black Studies. Her list of books includes Talkin and Testifyin, Discourse and Discrimination, Black Talk, Talkin That Talk, Language Diversity in the Classroom, and Word from the Mother.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199812985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199812981
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alim and Smitherman give a great overview of some of the contemporary issues in the study of African American English. Through the lens of Obama's language, they explore the intersection of race, class, and culture in the modern U.S. Amusing and lighthearted while maintaining its academic street cred, the book is highly recommended for scholars of language, race, and political science. Real Talk.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book forwards a new perspective the language and attitudes that remain pervasive elements of racial and political prejudice. But it also offers much needed commentary on the rhetorical savvy of Barack Obama and it's influence on an increasingly diverse audience of constituents.
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This is an increadibly well written book. It views and analyzes "Black language" through a dual analysis of AAVE and President obama's use of language--both AAVE and SAE. The langauge the authors use transitions fluidly from AAVE to SAE and back, providing the reader with an in depth experience of both dialects through the utilization of bidialectism and code-switching, a technique that further expresses the analysis of languge. It is an excellent addition to the library of linguists, langauge students, and those involved in race/ethnicity studies.

For those not faimliar with these fields, this book is very accessible. One does not need a lot of experience in linguistics or anthropology to understand the content or terminology the authors use. Their examples are relatable and often taken from the media (most of their examples can be viewed/heard on youtube), so, even if one is not familiar with certain examples given about Obama or other individuals discussed within, it would be very easy to find them.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone already involved in or interested in learning about AAVE language studies or langauge studies in general.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alim and Smitherman produce an accessible and cogent breakdown of Barack Obama's discursive production and the links to political speech, "standard" English and black rhetorical tradition evidenced therein. The authors nimbly style-shift and provide an example of hybrid discourse in their own language as they fuse academic and spoken language to convey some of the linguistic concepts that underlie their study of AAVE and the production of race in and through language. Truly fabulous book- I plan to use an excerpt for a basic writing/composition course.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Articulate While Black" is a profound acknowledgement of the importance of Black language(dialect/AAVE) and its role within the community, nation, and globally...Dr.G,(Geneva Smitherman) and her young protege,H. Samy Alim, have combined their generational experiences and knowledge to critically examine this problem of meaningful and appropriate cultural assimilation of young African Americans into the dominant White middle class culture...Its "Tha Bomb."

Author" The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement:Failure of America's Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good to see complex theory brought to bear on the real world in accessible prose. I wish I could make this an assigned text for all Americans.
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Dr. G is indeed the Jay Z of the academy and Alim is not far behind. Great read! Inspiring research!
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