1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar -- Spring 2016

Thursday, April 28, 7pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Alan Rumsey, Professor of Anthropology, Australian National University

"Child Language Socialization, Intersubjectivity and the Sociocultural Order in the New Guinea Highlands and Beyond"

 

Friday, April 15, 3-5pm *note we are meeting at a different time than usual* (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies & Project Director, University of Virginia

Nauman Faizi, Field Director for South Asia

Zain Moulvi, Field Director for USA

Patrick Derdall, Researcher in semiotics/value theory

"An Ethnolinguistic Approach to Value Predicative Studies"

A faculty-student team from the Department of Religious Studies has been working on a pragmatic-semiotic approach to the study of scripturally-based discourse and its significance in cases of religion-related conflict. Our original sources were: (a) group study of Peirce's pragmatic theory of inquiry, or what we call a model of "reparative reasoning"; (b) group study of Peirce's semiotic model for both phenomenology and logic, extended to a theory of "natural propositions" comparable to a biosemiotics; (c) records, written and oral, of a 25-year experiment in "scriptural reasoning" -- small group study of Scripture across religious differences, both Abrahamic and Asian; (d) accounts of what we judged to be cases of religion-specific or religion-related violent conflict. 

From these sources, we generated what we called a value-predicative model for examining judgments offered by a wide range of religious educators and leaders in various contexts of peace or conflict. Our first goal was to identify some not-too-difficult-to-observe phenomena which might or might not be coincident with types of encounters between religious groups: what, in the eyes of observers, ranged between cooperative engagement and violent conflict. We eventually decided that instances of public speech or writing served us best. Examining historical documents and the records of scriptural reasoning, we observed what we hypothesized was a correlation between the apparent presence or lack of multi-locality in value predicates (in certain judgment offered by the leaders or teachers) and an apparent range of hermeneutical tendencies among their students or followers.

In 2015, we field-tested the theory in South Asia, near the home city of three of our team members. These team members worked with three groups of seminary and university students of comparable age. With permission from their teachers/leaders, the they examined the semantic range of sets of value predicates in their teacher/leaders' sermons and written presentations and made observations on a range of corresponding or non-corresponding hermeneutical tendencies. In 2016, the team is working with 22 undergraduate interns to examine comparable sets of spoken or written value judgments among leaders/teachers of range of different religious groups in the USA.

We will save more technical details and explanations for the seminar (including speculations on what hermeneutics has to do with peace and conflict). Our purpose is to ask: does our project (drawn out of semiotics and religious studies) display features of what you would consider ethnolinguistic study? If so, how would current work in ethnolinguistics/ethnography help us strengthen it?

 

Friday, March 25, 1-3pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Anne Charity Hudley, Department of English, School of Education, Programs in Linguistics, Community Studies, and Africana Studies, The College of William and Mary

"'There Must Be a Better Way to Respond': Linguistic Ideology in STEM Contexts"

Decades of linguistic research have demonstrated that listeners of various backgrounds frequently hold strong negative attitudes about African American English and African-Americans (Gupta, 2010; Preston, 1998; Tucker & Lambert 1969). These ideologies are also pervasive in education. In this presentation Anne Charity Hudley demonstrates how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educators in Maryland and Virginia navigate the competing linguistic ideologies of their local communities and the linguistic narratives found throughout STEM education. By showing how linguistic, cultural, and social ideologies develop together in practice, this research underscores how the transmission of linguistic ideals is complicated by the demands of education as a profession. Demonstrating the interplay between the symbolic and structural effects of language can help linguists tailor their messages about linguistic discrimination to specific audiences. In turn, STEM educators can help linguists understand the mechanisms by which language attitudes create educational and social barriers for African Americans students.

Anne Harper Charity Hudley is Associate Professor of Education, English, Linguistics, and Africana Studies, and the inaugural William and Mary Professor of Community Studies at the College of William and Mary. Her research and publications address the relationship between language variation and Pre-K to 16 educational practices and policies. Her website can be found at http://annecharityhudley.com

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, American Studies, and the Curry School of Education’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction & Special Education.

A reception will follow in Brooks Hall Commons.

 

Friday, February 5, 1-3pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

James Slotta, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin

"Can the Subaltern Listen? Self-Determination and the Rhetoric of Expertise in Papua New Guinea"

Voice has become a major concern in contemporary liberal democratic politics, one that stresses the political importance of speech and the power of speaking ("giving voice", "speaking up", "talking back", and the like). But in the Yopno Valley of Papua New Guinea, people's sense that they are losing control of their future in the face of expanding NGO and government projects has given rise to worries about their capacity to listen, rather than their capacity to speak. This emphasis on their role as listeners is not an indication of Yopno powerlessness, as the politics of voice might lead us to expect; rather, it reflects a different sensibility about where power resides in communication. In largely acephalous Yopno villages, people do not often experience their self-determination impinged on by a "sovereign speaker" issuing binding commands, nor the need to "speak up" to have their voice integrated into law and policy. Rather, in a political environment where no one has the authority to dictate the course of action which others must follow, villagers' self-determination appears most threatened by their own ignorance, specifically their failure to understand the true nature of their own actions. From a perspective in which the possibilities, the antecedents, and the effects of action are deeply unclear—a perspective stressed in a rhetoric of expertise prevalent in Yopno discourse—self-determination hinges on listening and gaining the expertise to truly shape one's own future. 

Reception to follow in Brooks Hall Commons.

 

Friday, January 29, 1-3pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Mark A. Sicoli, Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University

"Narrating Moral Geography in a Oaxacan Zapotec Village"

This talk takes a linguistic anthropological approach to narratives to uncover interactional dynamics that result in the moral experience of place in a highland Zapotec village of Oaxaca, Mexico. I present ethnographic and video evidence from spontaneous interactions to examine the different ways that people of Lachixío [lachi'shío] use their language and bodies to refer to places in the stories of their everyday conversations. The analysis includes both speakers' place formulations and addressees' responses that publicly display their uptake. Place references are not only entangled with person references and historical events; they simultaneously help build participants' moral stances on their local geography. One recurrent stance that emerges in the narratives constructs Lachixío as the moral center of social life which transforms across the ambiguous edge of the forest to give way to an amoral space outside the village where one is susceptible to danger, spirits, and exploitation. This work demonstrates that through an examination of place references and their formulations in Lachixío conversational narratives we make visible how common ground and moral value are produced and reproduced through the step-wise progression of linguistic turn-taking and thus how a sense of place may come to be shared or contested dialogically.

Reception to follow in Brooks Hall Commons.