My punning emphasis in this year’s presidential theme—Multilingual US—is intended to remind us of what is at stake both for the nation and for each of us, personally and professionally, in imagining a multilingual home defined by multiplicity rather than singularity.
The pandemic and the protests made clear the need to recommit to access for all students and to redouble our advocacy for the humanities as a key pillar of democracy. Critical thinking about representation, agency, and the public good has never seemed more urgent. How will we take on these commitments in the university and beyond when the pandemic has taken a significant toll on so many of us?
The more we can do to alert our membership to these resources, and to create the habit of invoking MLA standards in our workplaces, the better off we will be, both as a professoriat and in allied professions. My somewhat dogged insistence on these very concrete matters—far from the intellectual passions that led many of us to our profession in the first place—stems from my conviction that we need to look out for one another and for those of our colleagues who come under increasing political and financial pressures.
As I begin my year as MLA president, I would like to think together about how the association might work to emphasize the centrality of multilingualism to our current condition. Without overlooking the often violent histories of how language and cultures intersect, we must insist on a multiplicity of now—multilingualism not just as vexed history, or unattainable utopia, but as our shared reality.