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.
Osborne, Dana Marie, U. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ - To aid research on 'Negotiating the Hierarchy of Languages in Ilocandia,' supervised by Dr. Norma Mendoza-Denton
DANA M. OSBORNE, then a student at University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Negotiating the Hierarchy of Languages in Ilocandia,' supervised by Dr. Norma Mendoza-Denton. Situated in contemporary Philippines, this project explores the social, linguistic, and cognitive impacts that changing language policies have had on speakers of one of the most spoken minority languages in the country, Ilocano. In the massively multilingual milieu of the Philippines, language policies have defined languages appropriate for school (and citizens)-in 1974, the Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) declared Filipino and English to be the national and official languages respectively and all minority languages to be auxiliary or 'transitional.' The Department of Education finally determined the BEP to be a failure and began to selectively reintroduce the mother tongue in schools to bridge growing gaps between speakers of minority languages and those with native command of Filipino. In this way, language is a salient sign of enduring national struggle and it is the foremost stage on which the complexities of social participation, belonging and identity are negotiated. This project examines the ways that young Ilocanos negotiate languages with a special focus on the social semiotic practice of spatial language among speakers to determine the strength and directionality of any language change undergirding contemporary language practices.
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.
Prentice, Michael Morgan, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Restructuring Corporations From Below: The Re-emergence of Hierarchy among South Korea's Conglomerates,' supervised by Dr. Matthew Hull
Preliminary abstract: In the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis in Korea, IMF restructuring led to major economic and social overhauls across Korean society, including reforms to corporate governance among the country's infamous conglomerates. Subsequent restructuring was meant to root out the cronyistic and personalistic practices of the past and implement new models of transparency, accountability and efficiency suitable for global competition. This project explores how Korean office cultures and work practices have changed in the years since, especially as post-IMF reforms have become institutionalized. I look at this phenomenon through the particular lens of changes in Korea's military-like hierarchy system, long a symbol of corporate paternalism. Numerous conglomerates have sought to transform hierarchical divisions along egalitarian lines, from 'flat' organizational structures to equalized terms of address. My project takes an interactional approach to understand why and how office workers might resist efforts to make workplaces more equal. In fourteen months of Wenner-Gren-funded fieldwork in Seoul, South Korea, I will explore the plethora of institutional policies across South Korea's sixty conglomerates and observe how they are taken up in practice, especially across new modes of digital communication. I hypothesize that as 'flat' relations become implemented, Korean office workers may seek asymmetrical relations with other co-workers to cultivate a social insurance in a turbulent labor market. This project will elucidate broader anthropological concerns for social mobility, capitalist organization and the language of hierarchy.
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
Preliminary abstract: Over the past twenty years, Luang Prabang (LPB), the once royal capital of Laos, has shifted from sleepy socialist hamlet to 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. My research studies how actors in LPB morally evaluate these new forms of exchange during face-to-face interaction. In 12 months of research, I will primarily investigate two forms of exchange--gambling for beer and gambling for money--as they occur in the popular game pétanque, which resembles bocce. Pétanque began to soar in popularity in LPB 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. Many people explicitly associate beer-gambling with the state, civil servants, and a distinctively 'Lao' and 'good' way of sharing. Conversely, they associate money-gambling with workers in the tourist sector and an increasingly common 'foreign' and 'immoral' way of consuming. I have chosen to study pétanque gambling because of its popularity, because of its morally fraught status, and because debates concerning the morality of the two forms of gambling appear to crystalize debates concerning new ways of making and spending money in LPB more generally. I am studying these exchanges with methods for studying face-to-face interaction because I predict that an attention to ordinary interaction will reveal the multiple modalities and methods through which exchanges become moral practices in the first place. More broadly, I anticipate that such an approach will shed light on the ethical domain itself.
Pritzker, Dr. Sonya Elizabeth, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'The Language of Personal Experience in China: Examining New Forms of Self-Oriented Chinese Medicine'
Preliminary abstract: This project is an ethnographic study examining the emergence of a new language of personal experience in China, specifically in the context of innovative forms of 'self-oriented Chinese Medicine.' Self-oriented Chinese medicine (CM) here refers to novel forms of Chinese medicine that integrate clinical psychology, biomedical psychiatry, New Age spirituality, and other popular healing genres in the creation of theories and practices geared towards the treatment of the disordered self and/or the promotion of self-realization, self-actualization, and self-transformation, all themes becoming increasingly popular in China. Data for the project will be collected at two major sites in China, including one institution where a hybrid form of self-oriented CM is being practiced and an alternative bookstore offering workshops on various forms of self-oriented CM to the public. Data will include participant observation, video, and audio-recording of workshops and healing interactions at these sites; in-depth, open-ended interviews with practitioners, patients, and consumers of self-oriented CM; and a survey of popular texts in the field. The overarching goal of the project is to answer the central research question, 'How is language used to express and manage the self in the hybrid and developing field of self-oriented CM?'
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.