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
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.
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
Preliminary abstract: In the past 30 years, the Chinese state has curtailed its bureaucratic reach into the lives or ordinary citizens. Yet over the same time period, the state has launched two new, far-reaching campaigns aimed at bring about an unprecedented transformation of the lives of women: the 'Superior Birth, Superior (child)-Rearing' campaign of the 1980s (now the 'Education for Quality' campaign) and the 'building a new socialist countryside campaign'(Greenhalgh 2010, Jacka and Sargeson 2011). How can we explain the simultaneous recession of state interference from most aspects of daily life and their increasing focus on women, and, in particular, rural women? My project, then, seeks to understand the effect of these campaigns, and the influence of the state in general, on Chinese women through an examination of state discourses which circulate through a wide range of media, specifically print media, in contemporary China. I hypothesize that while the direct state presence, particularly in the form of overt nation-building campaigns which epitomized the Maoist era, has receded from the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese citizens, the state still exerts a pervasive, if indirect, influence on daily life through circulation of discourses, management information, and through shaping the literacy and media consumption practices of its citizens, particularly women. To do this, I will study the consumption practices and circulation patterns state-produced women's magazines by spending 12 months in a small village in Anhui province. My study of the reading habits of village women will provide a nuanced view of how the state attempts to mediate everyday life, and how this intervention is interpreted by ordinary Chinese women.
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.