At the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) last month, a friend presented a paper on a novel written in English by an American author born to Cuban-exile parents. Well-meaning people grouped my friend with two scholars of Latin American literature. One read her paper in Spanish, as my friend listened respectfully, even though she doesn't know Spanish. The other scholar had written his paper in English, but with long excerpts in Spanish. No one apologized to my friend for putting her on a panel in which she could not fully grasp the other two papers.
Of course, I understand that people who study and teach Latin American literature would read works in Spanish and write papers in Spanish.
But I'd like to see more of an interdisciplinary understanding -- what I consider a sort of intersectionality -- that recognizes that feminist and postcolonial analysis can cross many borders, and we can't expect those scholars to read and write in all languages.
This example also illustrates an issue I've mentioned before (6/26/09): We need to recognize that it's impossible to be perfectly intersectional, and we need to adapt our expectations to that fact. In the United States, my friend never gets to write or read papers in her first languages, even though one is among the most widely-spoken in the world.