Brown, Laura C., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Tipping Scales with Tongues: Language Use in Thanjavur's Petty Shops,' supervised by Judith T. Irvine
LAURA C. BROWN, then a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in April 2005 to aid research on 'Tipping Scales with Tongues: Language Use in Thanjavur's Petty Shops,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine. Roadsides in India bloom with small grocery shops, mali kada, where goods, advertisements, and news from distant locations mix with products and persons who spend most of their time within a single neighborhood. Because they are primary sites for household consumption and expenditure, meetings between friends and interactions between neighbors who are unlikely to speak in other settings, these shops are critical sites for the enactment and negotiation of multiple kinds of affiliation, obligation, and trust. Focusing on conversations in and around three such shops in Thanjavur, India this project explores the ways in which communication about different forms of debt and obligation -- in cash, kind, action, and affection -- relates to ideas about the correctness, economic value, and morality of Tamil language use. Recordings of conversations in shops, examinations of account books, interviews with product suppliers, and explicit discussions of ways of speaking suggest that people doing business in such shops often stress the quantity and regularity of talk, as opposed to its form or content, as critical to the maintenance of relationships
Swank, Heidi F., Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Textbooks and Grocery Lists: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in the Everyday of Dharamsala, India,' supervised by Dr. Robert Launay
HEIDI F. SWANK, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, was awarded a grant in January 2001 to aid research on 'Textbooks and Grocery Lists: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in the Everyday of Dharamsala, India,' supervised by Dr. Robert Launay. Through an analysis of seemingly inconsequential writings, such as text messages and grocery lists, this study examined how Tibetan refugee youth in Dharamsala, India utilize written language to negotiate boundaries and inclusion across and within three communities of practice that are based primarily on nativity. This study contributes to work that challenges theories of social reproduction through education and the primacy of spoken language, respectively, by demonstrating that 1) despite a change to Tibetan-medium education youth chose to write primarily in English in everyday situations and 2) although results of a sociolinguistic survey of 214 Dharamsala resident demonstrate uniform use of spoken Tibetan at home, the majority of Tibetan youth use English in everyday writing. Not only does this study support work that questions the influence of the educational system on language, but it extends this work by examining specifically written language, in particular, multilingual writing practices that diverge significantly from spoken language practices across this community.
Cody, Francis P., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Language Ideology and Grassroots Literacy in Tamil Nadv, India,' supervised by Dr. Webb Keane
FRANCIS P. CODY, then a student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in January 2004 to aid research on the 'Language and Ideology and Grassroots Literacy in Tamilnadu, India,' supervised by Dr. Webb Keane. Ethnographic fieldwork in a village in Pudukkottai District of Tamilnadu showed how literacy practices - not available to all - play a crucial mediating role, which conditions people's access to basic forms of knowledge, state services, and the main means of production (agricultural land). The hierarchically organized, polyglossic sociolinguistic character of Tamil consistently works in contradiction to humanist and state ideologies of equality and transparency in communication. Yet such ideologies are working in changing the very linguistic structure of written Tamil in certain contexts as well as opening new quasi-utopian social spaces in which new norms of communication are being worked out among villagers at the social and economic peripheries. The ethnography of a government literacy program known as Arivoli Iyakkam ('The Light of Knowledge Movement'), and also of other reading and writing practices such as newspaper production/consumption, petition filing, and private property registration, was used in this research to deve1op a political-economic approach within linguistic anthropology. Furthermore, this research investigated the meaning and practices of 'enlightenment' (arivoli, in Tamil) as lived and interpreted in a small-village context.
Cody, Francis. 2009. Inscribing Subjects to Citizenship: Petitions, Literacy Activism, and the Performativity of Signature in Rural Tamil India. Cultural Anthropology 24(3):347-380.
Weinberg, Miranda Jean, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Schooling Languages: Indigeneity and Language Policy in Jhapa District, Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Asif Agha
Preliminary abstract: Nepal, a country with incredible ethnic and linguistic diversity, is in the midst of writing a new constitution. This constitution may divide the country into federal states along ethnic and linguistic lines. The possibility of special state provisions for certain groups has been met with calls by various groups for indigenous rights, including education in indigenous languages. Simultaneously, migration within Nepal and internationally has led to increased use of Nepali and English, and growing demands for schooling in those languages. Through twelve months of ethnographic research centered on two government primary schools in the southeastern district of Jhapa, this project explores the cultural production of educated ways of speaking and changing social categories, such as citizenship and indigeneity. Through interviews and participant-observation with students, teachers, bureaucrats, and activists, as well as archival research, I seek to understand the role played by education and language policies in creating new concepts of citizenship, and new categories of citizens. What social categories emerge as salient in daily life and everyday talk? What signs and ideologies construct such categories and make them part of lived experience? How are such categories represented at various levels of educational and language policies, including at school?
Davis, Christina Parks, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Language Practices and Ideologies of Difference in Sri Lanka' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine
CHRISTINA P. DAVIS, then a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in April 2006 to aid research on 'Language Practices and Ideologies of Difference in Sri Lanka,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine. A former British colony, Sri Lanka is an extraordinary diverse, multilingual island-nation. For over 25 years, Sri Lanka has been ravaged by an ethnic conflict, between the Sinhalese majority Sri Lankan government, and a Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic research, this project explores multilingual language practices and ideologies of social difference among ethnic minority (Tamil and Muslim) adolescents in two educational institutions in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Two major questions were addressed: 1) how are social divisions -- based on ethnicity, religion, and class -- represented to students in institutional policies and curriculum involving language, such as the medium of instruction, and the teaching of correct or appropriate speech? And 2) how do the students in their own interactions in school and non-school settings engage with, negotiate, and create their own configurations of these groupings? This research contributes to the ethnography of education, studies of interactions in institutional settings, and to understandings of ethnic conflict.
Zuckerman, Charles Henry Pearson, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'The Ethics of Exchange: Gambling and Interaction in Luang Prabang, Laos,' supervised by Dr. Michael Lempert
CHARLES H.P. ZUCKERMAN, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded funding in October 2013 to aid research on 'The Ethics of Exchange: Gambling and Interaction in Luang Prabang, Laos,' supervised by Dr. Michael Lempert. This research used ethnographic and linguistic methods to explore the ethical dimensions of economic exchanges in Luang Prabang, Laos. For the past twenty years, Luang Prabang has been a city in shift, as the once royal capital of Laos has emerged as a global tourist destination. The city's inhabitants have reacted to the influx of money and new forms of exchange with a mixture of desire and moral trepidation. This research used interviews, participant observation, and the analysis of video-recorded economic exchanges to investigate how people living in the city understand, and ethically evaluate, this shift. The researcher paid particular attention to gambling-an especially ethically fraught activity-on the game pétanque. Pétanque began to soar in popularity in Luang Prabang in the late 1990s and continues to grow as the Lao socialist state lifts many of its restrictions on gathering and gambling and embraces market capitalism, foreign investment, and tourism. In studying pétanque in Luang Prabang, the research asked a broader anthropological and comparative question: how might an analysis of interaction help us better understand the moralization of forms of exchange and, more broadly, the ethical domain itself??????
Dubuisson, Eva-Marie, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Censoring Culture? Regional Authority and Political Legitimacy in Aitus Poetry in Post Soviet Kazakhstan,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine
EVA-MARIE DUBUISSON, then a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in November 2005 to aid research on 'Censoring Culture? Regional Authority and Political Legitimacy in Aitus Poetry in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine. The grantee conducted ethnographic research in Kazakhstan for the period January - August 2006, to study a form of improvisational poetry currently performed all through the Kazakh world, among populations in Central Asia, Turkey, China, Russia, and Mongolia. This verbal art form is now a nationalized performance network in Kazakhstan; poets have achieved great levels of notoriety and stardom as bearers of 'true Kazakh culture.' In their highly intertextual performances, poets voice a wide variety of social personae as they engage in verbal duels. The project during this final research period was to show how poets collaborate with their mentors, audiences, and sponsors in a complex and highly metaphorical critique of Kazakhstan's current government at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. Poets decry corruption and nepotism, the vast gulf in levels of wealth between the country's elite and the average citizen, continued Russian hegemony in the region, and unaddressed issues of social and environmental degradation throughout the country. Sponsors, typically independently wealthy businessmen, are capitalizing upon an opportunity to add their voices indirectly to that critique. In the current climate of repression, censorship, and authoritarianism throughout Central Asia today, open dissent is not tolerated. This project demonstrates how the collaboration and mutual dependence of sponsors and poets creates new forms of authority within the Kazakh world above and beyond the nation-state.
Ingebretson, Britta Elisabeth, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Media, Circulation and the State: A Study of Women's Reading Practices in a Chinese Village,' supervised by Dr. Judith Farquhar
BRITTA E. INGEBRETSON, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Media, Circulation and the State: A Study of Women's Reading Practices in a Chinese Village,' supervised by Dr. Judith Farquhar. The grantee has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on women's leisure and media consumption habits in Tunxi, located in southern Anhui Province, China. The project explores how women in a rural city seek to constitute themselves as modern, 'cultured' (you wenhua de) subjects in China's rapidly urbanizing countryside, and how these women navigate through and interact with state efforts to produce 'quality' (you suzhi de) subjects. Through fieldwork at various sites including a rural school, a yoga studio, and a newsstand, this research shows how rather than reject concepts of 'quality' or 'culturedness' as promoted through state campaigns such as the 'superior birth, superior (child) rearing' (yousheng youyu) campaign, women seek to inhabit and quite literally embody them through various projects of self-improvement. These concepts of 'quality' and 'culturedness' are defined through a constellation of diverse and seemingly disconnected practices and qualities that index a forward-thinking, modern, and upwardly mobile mother independent from traditional family networks and local hierarchies, as well as distinct from the imagined 'backwards' (luohou) rural subject.
Johnson, Amanda Caroline, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Twitter and the Body Parodic: Global Circulation of a Speech Genre,' supervised by Dr. Graham Jones
Preliminary abstract: This project investigates the global circulation of Twitter parody accounts as a genre of social critique, asking how parody and the parodic voice are collaboratively created by the users and architects of Twitter. For while parodists animate accounts and, with interlocutors, co-create characters, the platform's architects shape expressive parameters through policies, affordances, and ideologies. As the Twitter platform expands, it increasingly comes into contact with a variety of legal regimes, censorship apparatuses, and cultural expectations that challenge the Twitter corporation's core values. No expressive form epitomizes such conflict more strongly than Twitter parody accounts, particularly those that 'animate' (Goffman 1981) the voices of political figures. Parody accounts serve as a flash point for legal issues of author's rights, impersonation, and defamation, with national and international dimensions. This project thus also examines shifting concepts of political participation and sovereignty. How do new communication resources spark negotiation of community affiliation and social power, and how do media actors navigate within and beyond traditional legal frameworks? To investigate these questions, this project combines organizational ethnography within Twitter itself--spanning the company's domestic and international operations--with comparative linguistic anthropological research on Twitter parodists and parody accounts that target regional politics in the United States, the Arab world, and Japan. It thus offers an alternative approach to both the media producer/consumer dyad and the online/offline binary, instead considering the Twitter participation ecology as a whole.
Kim, Ujin, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Moral Resonance: Honorific Speech among Kazakh Nomads in China,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine
UJIN KIM, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Moral Resonance: Honorific Speech among Kazakh Nomads in China,' supervised by Dr. Judith T. Irvine. This ethnographic research, conducted in Kaba County, Altai Prefecture, Xinjiang, China, shows that Kazakh nomads use their honorific speech to communicate the images of an ethical person, grounded in the appropriateness of one's linguistic choice in a given situation. This appropriateness, in turn, is based on the perceived congruence among the linguistic forms used (both honorific and non-honorific) and the non-linguistic components of the situation, mediated by language ideologies about what constitutes good speech and a good person. This study highlights the semiotic processes by which the grammatical components of honorific speech become imagistically linked to the various non-linguistic aspects of pastoral life. In their everyday ethical judgment of how one should act in different social settings, Altai Kazakhs appear to be concerned less about fulfilling their prescribed mutual obligations within the traditional kinship structure, but more about skillfully fashioning their social networks by drawing on the sociolinguistic generative scheme that links types of speech and types of kin relations, which can be tropically extended to all social relations, including non-kinship and interethnic ones. When the Kazakh herders use honorific speech in interactions, such imagistic 'fit' between forms of talk and social forms is understood to reveal the speaker's moral quality.