1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Gifts, Recruitments, and Co-Presence in a Zapotec Village

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  • Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons

This talk examines joint activities in a video corpus of spontaneous conversations in Lachixío, a Zapotec village of Oaxaca, Mexico, to develop an understanding of language and sociality in offering and recruiting events.  We first examine a wedding ritual that was derailed by an overgenerous gift.  The interactional work to repair the gift ceremony reveals normative expectations for gift giving that downplay exchange value and highlight its symbolic value in creating amicable social bonds, a function of gift giving recognized since Mauss. Turning to everyday offers involving food, drink, and labor, I illustrate through analysis of sequence organization and the collaborative negotiation for acceptance that everyday offers similarly work to build reputations and social bonds.  We then look at the inverse social action of recruitment, where another's agency is directed or requested, and which invokes a power relationship in the entitlement of one participant to the gift of another's agency.  However through close examination of co-present action we see that situations of social control cannot rule out resistance through multilayered responses that fulfill at one level but deny at another.  The focus on joint activities thus provides examples of how multimodal interaction analysis grounds an ethnography of social actions, bringing tools from the linguistic anthropological study of social cognition to bear on sociocultural analysis.

Event Date: 
Friday, 16 January 2015 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Mark A. Sicoli
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University