Claudia Anguiano: Scholar, Teacher, Activist

Contentious debates over immigration reform call scholars to turn their attention to the rhetoric of immigration. Claudia Anguiano, Lecturer in Speech for the Institute for Writing & Rhetoric, centers her scholarship on the ways immigrant populations are defined. In line with other communication studies scholars, Anguiano uses rigorous, critical rhetorical methods to extract the historical dimensions and significance of terminology, thereby broadening our understanding of the role of race and racism in discourses of immigration and social justice.

Of particular interest to Dr. Anguiano is how the polarizing word "illegal" dominates popular, legislative, and mediated discourses. She has been studying the rhetorical practices of immigrant rights organizations that are advocating in favor of increasing awareness of intolerance against immigrants. Lately, she's turned her scholarly attention to the rhetorical features of Drop the I-Word, a public education campaign that relies on a two-pronged advocacy approach. On one front, the campaign promotes individual responsibility for dropping use of word "illegal" from common vernacular. On another front, the campaign calls on media outlets to eliminate the word from their coverage by highlighting the word's derogatory nature.

Dr. Anguiano maintains that the Drop the I-Word campaign employs the important rhetorical strategy of resistance against the dehumanizing language that links migrants to "illegality."   Using her research to inform her teaching, Dr. Anguiano asks students in her courses, such as Rhetoric of Social Justice, to reflect on the role of language—on the one hand, how language can dehumanize; on the other hand, how redefining can affect social change. Anguiano elaborates: "Presenting the consequences of immigration terminology and the reasons for eliminating the use of 'illegal immigrant' is more than an opportunity to raise awareness of language and its impact. It also presents the possibilities for elevating the current dialogue around this important social justice issue."

Dr. Anguiano teaches her students various methods of rhetorical analysis so that they might better understand the power of the language they employ to define others. Her methods create a reflective and inclusive classroom environment, in which students do the important work of examining the consequences of all racial labels. As Dr. Anguiano acknowledges, "Familiarizing students with the theoretical work of activist research can help them imagine more possibilities for effecting social change."

For more information on the Drop the I-Word campaign, click here.