“The right to lead”: Navajo language, dis-citizenship, and Diné presidential politics

Kristina Jacobsen, Kerry F. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article examines the 2014 Navajo Nation presidential primary election and language debate as a window into the politics of Navajo heritage language and identity. Using Facebook posts written in response to a videotaped hearing testing the fluency of one of the candidates that subsequently went viral, we analyse social citizenship and stigmatized language identities through the lens of critical Diné (Navajo) language consciousness. Focusing on generational differences between speaker groups that undergirded this debate, we analyse (a) the fluency test itself and (b) online and ethnographic responses to the fluency test. Using discourse analysis of Facebook posts of both heritage language and new Navajo speakers, we show how new speakers in particular express investment in their language and Diné cultural continuity and, through their emphasis on the heterogeneity of contemporary Diné communicative practices, offer an alternative template for ways to move forward in Diné language reclamation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-54
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Navajo Nation
  • Navajo language
  • dis-citizenship
  • language reclamation
  • new speakerness
  • politics of belonging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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