The ethnographic study of migration into the United States has shown that the culturally specific ways people are made into distinct and hierarchically ranked kinds are a key force organizing human movement. Among migrants, such people-making is transnational, unfolding across nation-state borders and involving encounters with regimes of social difference produced at multiple scales of interaction. This article explores the influential role language ideologies and practices play in transnational people-making, concentrating on orders of indexicality: the ways language creates and stratifies personae (images of people associated with patterned ways of using language). Orders of indexicality offer a useful way to conceptualize how regimes of social difference are generated and challenged. I examine, first, the indexical orders that erect nation-state borders, focusing on U.S. linguistic nationalism and covert racializing discourses. I then consider the scholarship on the indexical orders generated by migrants, emphasizing how they complicate those of the nation-state.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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