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On September 14th, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures hosted the virtual discussion, “Trans knowledges in the language classroom: Leveraging gender-just pedagogies to build communities and competencies”. The department welcomed Kris Aric Knisely [Ph.D., French and Educational Studies, Emory University], who provided a well-attended forty-five-minute discussion, followed by a dynamic and engaged question and answer period.  Assistant Professor of French and Intercultural Competence as well as affiliated faculty in both the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Ph.D. program and the Trans Studies Research Cluster (TSRC) at the University of Arizona, Dr. Knisely’s event brought Diversity, Equity & Inclusion into focus, tackling how language education impacts thought. 

As we speak, read, or write, we linguistically position ourselves and, in turn, are positioned by others. Language education encourages learners’ reflections on their own identities in relation to the broader social world. Although language learning allows students to (re)imagine, (re)invent, and explore new linguistic and cultural identities, there is often limited attention on trans knowledges and linguistic practices in the curriculum, textbooks, research, and pedagogy of language classrooms, leaving many educators to report feeling particularly unprepared to engage in gender-just language teaching. Throughout the research process, Dr. Knisely explores the linguistical practices of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming speakers of French to better inform the development of trans-affirming curricula, materials, and research. 

Knisely elevated the September discussion beyond scholarly discourse by providing pragmatic strategies that could be immediately employed in the classroom. "Kris Knisely's presentation on gender-just pedagogies was the best talk I have attended on the topic so far,” said French lecturer Sabine Gabaron. “In addition to being educational, informative and enriching, it was truly inspiring.  The information presented was intellectually engaging and thought provoking, yet practical and concrete.  It provided creative and innovative ideas that are applicable to teaching at any level within the ELP and the ULP for a more inclusive learning environment.  Since then, several concepts from this wonderful talk have guided my reflections on pedagogy and helped me include new techniques into my daily teachings."

Dr. Knisely’s work has appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals including Contemporary French Civilization, Critical Multilingualism Studies, Foreign Language Annals, The French Review, Gender and Language, Journal of Applied Measurement, and Pensamiento Educativo.

This event invited reflection on the possibilities for reimagining and reinventing our language classrooms, materials, and pedagogical approaches to recenter trans knowledges, while avoiding a hyperfocus on narratives of oppression. Knisely encouraged participants to consider how this ongoing process of queer and trans reformation can help us to better serve all of our students, particularly in terms of increasing classroom inclusiveness and fostering tolerance. "This talk offered an excellent overview of Knisely's work: in addition to underscoring the social justice context of gender-just pedagogies, Kris deftly brought together theoretical questions and practical aspects of such instruction,” said Associate Chair, Nick Henriksen. “I also enjoyed the lively Q&A session afterward: colleagues conversed on a variety of topics aimed at making students feel more represented in the classroom while using new linguistic forms. I am very optimistic that we will continue to hold similar events in the future." 


To learn more about RLL’s approach to making our language courses more inclusive, please visit the Gender Diversity Committee’s website

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