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.
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.