Encoding the Switch: Some Reflections on Cultural Miscegenation and Post-Racialism in Black Popular Culture
James Braxton Peterson [+]
This essay explores the primary predicament of the sociolinguistic code-switcher: that speakers who are considered outside of mainstream Standard American English (SAE) speech communities engage in practices of code-switching in order to subvert and navigate linguistically oppressive social forces. Through several examples of code-switching in contemporary Black popular culture (including performative speech events from The Boondocks and lyrics written and performed by Lupe Fiasco), encoded iterations of the practice often referred to as codeswitching unveil some significant sociolinguistic findings. One important insight explored here is that code switching is one example of the practices that Herman Gray (2004) refers to as a cultural moves. Thus the ‘switch’ itself engenders certain codes and cultural practices even as code-switching speakers shift between and amongst certain sociolinguistic registers.