Miguel Gonzalez: A Francophile Studying an Emerging Language

Hello everyone, I am Miguel González, a third-year major in International Affairs. I was born and raised in Miami, FL to Cuban and Colombian refugee parents. During my free time, I enjoy dancing salsa, watching documentaries, and trying national plates from around the globe. I am currently a service board member of the SLC student leadership council. I am also affiliated with the Cuban American Student Association, Colombian American Student Association, Brazilian American Student Association, and the French Club. Since a young age, I have had a strong curiosity for global cultures and linguistics. I studied French throughout high school and during summer breaks while visiting my grandparents in Havana, Cuba at the Alliance Française. Deeply in love with the francophone culture, I searched for a job where I could practice my elementary French and develop it. This resulted in working in French restaurants for over 5 years in Miami.

Miguel Gonzalez, International Affairs major
David B. Ford Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award winner

Today, I am a French tutor for students starting their French linguistic career. This semester I enrolled in religions in Africa, where I gained an interest in West African francophone societies. Combining my passion for linguistics and culture I developed this research project with the help of my professor, Dr. Hellweg (Dept. of Religion), and two affiliate universities in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. After graduation, I hope to pursue a doctorate in social linguistic and cultural studies. After my studies, I plan on working for the US State Department as a Foreign Service Officer in West Africa.

My Project: This summer I will travel to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa to develop a lexicon of queer usage of the emerging creole language, Nouchi. I will also be testing my hypothesis: Nouchi language and culture help sustain LGBTQI+ tolerance while revealing the extent of anti-queer prejudice. Dr. Jacques N’goran Kouakou, a linguist, and Dr. Kando Soumahoro, a sociologist— both professors at the University of Abidjan—will mentor me and help me recruit queer, Nouchi- speaking research subjects for my project. I will be working in the popular neighborhoods, Abobo and Adjamé. These neighborhoods house the working class of Abidjan, such as street vendors, baristas, and sex workers, where the language is born.

During my interviews, I will use snowball sampling to identify additional potential interviewees. I will conduct at least one focus group and multiple semi-structured interviews. I will also undertake participant observation and informal interviews. I will spend a total of nine weeks collecting data. Dr. Joseph Hellweg, who will advise my honors in the major thesis, that I will defend in the spring of 2023, based on this research, has himself done research in Abidjan’s LGBTQ community and Drs. Kouakou and Soumahoro have worked with Nouchi speakers. At the end of my project, I will report on my research at the academic institutes with which Drs. Kouakou and Soumahoro are affiliated, respectively, with the Institute of Applied Linguistics and the Laboratory of Symbolic Anthropology and Economic Sociology. I also plan to publish at least one academic article with Dr. Kouakou who is himself an expert on Nouchi.

Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash

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