In case you missed this fantastic piece of news, I am absolutely delighted to announce that Dr. Clive Forrester is the newest member of the UWaterloo English department. His linguistic research into the operations of Jamaican Creole in courtroom spaces is compelling. He kindly agreed to an interview with Words in Place, discussing everything from snow and swag to comic books. Enjoy!–JLH
JLH: Welcome to Waterloo! You did you PhD abroad–when you started your PhD, did you envision yourself teaching in an English department in Canada?
CF: I didn’t even see myself in Canada full stop! I knew my grandma spent a good deal of her later years there (she returned to Jamaica for her final few years) and that it was almost always cold. I remember asking her to bring back some snow once so I could see what it looked like in real life. Well, when I arrived in 2008 as a Visiting Prof at York University I got my “baptism by ice” that winter. But, if you can survive one winter, you can survive two. And if two, then three. And so on.
JLH: How have you found Waterloo so far? Have there been any surprises?
CF: I quite like it here at Waterloo actually. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of welcome/orientation activities for new faculty members. Usually orientation is focused on students and new faculty are given a map of the university to figure things out. But I’ve attended at least three welcome functions and been treated to all manner of pastries and UWaterloo swag.
JLH: Your research adds a new area of expertise to our department: can you tell us a bit about what you do and how you see it fitting here?
CF: Well, at first I felt like an oddball given the kinds of research and courses in the department – Medieval literature, Chaucer, Shakespeare, even a course on Harry Potter. But then I realized that a lot of the courses really deal with how different genres/styles of language shape and influence the way people see the world in different contexts throughout different time periods. I kinda do the same thing in my own area of research, applied/forensic linguistics, especially when I look at how different linguistic identities are perceived inside the courtroom in a context where two languages of differing status (Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole) occupy the same discourse space. I think I can contribute to the theoretical underpinnings of what comprises one’s linguistic identity and the ways in which this identity is negotiated across concerns such as linguistic discrimination, code switching, language change etc. One of my current works in progress looks at perceptions of hate speech in the Caribbean, and how this perception is framed against a background of a context where indigenous Caribbean languages are often dismissed as inherently hateful.
JLH: Do you have future research projects you are excited about?
CF: I’d say I’m excited about (a) co-editing a volume on language and the law from a Caribbean perspective, and (b) seeing how best I can develop my research on hate speech perceptions in the Caribbean.
JLH: I know most of us don’t have spare time for pleasure reading this time of year, but I’m curious: if could sneak in a few books, what would they be?
CF: Of late, I’ve started to read works from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the Nigerian feminist author who wrote Half of a Yellow Sun (the first one I read). I’m also eager to start Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings; he’s a Jamaican author who shot to fame after winning the Man Booker Prize in fiction for 2016. I also love a good Marvel or DC comic, my favourite story arc of late has been “Injustice: Gods Among Us” where the DC superheroes (and some villains too) decided to use their powers to the full extent and end crime permanently.