History’s Code-Switching Essays: Blending Social Sciences and Historical Narrative Code-Switching, as a term, has recently made its way into the American cultural consciousness. Defined as the “mixing of two or more languages in a conversation,” 1 it is the recognition of the often complex duality human beings experience in the daily theater of life, adapting as they move from scene to scene, switching voices when required.
History as a discipline, is the investigation of past events with the intent to translate them to understand where we have been and what we have experienced as a species. As the human historical narrative unfolds, its detectives rely on the empirical data gathered by the social sciences, i.e., anthropology, economics, sociology, political science and beyond. The consequence of this blending of academic disciplines is evident in historical exposition and argumentative essays; where a narrative mode of communication filled with metaphors and anecdotes code-switches with hard data and facts when required. Philippe Roger, the author of Global Anti-Americanism and the Lessons of the “French Exception,” the article selected for this analysis, not only uses code-switching in this essay but undoubtedly in his professional life.
Roger spends splits his academic year, being a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales in Paris and the University of Virginia, as well as serving as Research Program Director at the French National Center for Scientific Research.2With a foot on each shore, Roger is considered a foremost thought leader and prize-winning author in the history of French Anti-Americanism.3 This makes him uniquely appropriate to relay the narrative of this essay, published as an article in the Journal of American History (JAH) in September of 2006, as part of a roundtable series on Anti-Americanism. The article is a spirited yet measured response to Rob Kroes essay, European Anti-Americanism: What’s New?, published 31 pages earlier in the same JAH series.
4 The essay is written in narrative mode, typical of the humanities discipline. Roger writes in first-person voice, frequently using “I” and “we” throughout. Roger’s thesis contradicts Kroes assertion that anti-Americanism was surging in Europe in 2006 stemming from the American invasion of Iraq and subsequent crisis. He states though current political situations can seemingly stoke the flames of hatred, the real sentiment of disgust is quieter, more ingrained. Using metaphors, he likens the continual French narrative of anti-American sentiment from the 19th century onward as a “multilayered sedimentation” or a “Pavlovian” response.
However, Roger switches to third-person voice with succinct sentences and statistics describing poll data gathered from the U.S. State Department (2002) and the French National Assembly symposium (2004), reinforcing his argument of sustained steady anti-American sentiment, ebbing and flowing, but not particularly escalating.
5 It is this mix of solid facts and expressive prose that separates the historical essay from other disciplines. Thought all academic writing conveys a well-researched professional tone, a sociology case study would stay away from metaphors, and a literature review of poetry would rarely contain political science statistics.6 The Round Table: Contemporary Anti-Americanism section in September 2006 The Journal of American History can be viewed as large virtual auditorium with a world-wide audience, ranging from historical scholars to politicians to journalists to the “amateur” history enthusiast, listening to a panel discussion. Writing for both his profession and the outside world, Roger’s tone is conversational and impassioned with interjections like “alas!” and Shakespearian “by the by” asides.
7 Code-switching is ultimately about conveying the exact thought needed for the situation to clarify intent and meaning. History is the art of telling a compelling story backed by thorough, intricate research. Holding social science stats in one hand and such historical anecdotes of riding in a “ramshackle old school bus” with his American friends to protest the Vietnam War8 in the other, Roger does just that, seamlessly weaving the research into the narrative for his audience and for history. 1 “code-switching,” Dictionary.com, accessed January 20, 2018.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/code-switching.2 “Department of French, Faculty Biographies,” University of Virginia, accessed January 20, 2018. http://french.as.
virginia.edu/people/profile/ppr2n3 “Department of French, Faculty Biographies,” University of Virginia, accessed January 20, 2018. http://french.as.
virginia.edu/people/profile/ppr2n4 Rob Kroes, European Anti-Americanism: What’s New? (The Journal of American History 93, no. 2, 2006), 417-315 Philippe Roger, Global Anti-Americanism and the Lessons of the “French Exception” (The Journal of American History 93, no.
2, 2006), 4496 Derek Soles, The Essentials of Academic Writing (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003),8-127 Philippe Roger, Global Anti-Americanism and the Lessons of the “French Exception” (The Journal of American History 93, no. 2, 2006), 4508 Philippe Roger, Global Anti-Americanism and the Lessons of the “French Exception” (The Journal of American History 93, no. 2, 2006), 451