Tag Archives: linguistic anthropology

Incorporations: Capitalism and Collectivity

Matthew Hull (University of Michigan)

Incorporation, a process by which a group of individuals is constituted as a legal entity, should be placed alongside commoditization as a major mechanism through which human activities are drawn into capitalist processes. In contrast to commoditization, which draws labor, land, and things into capitalist transactions, incorporation brings the guidance of collective life into a capitalist order. Through incorporation, groups become recognizable to economic and political actors. This paper will explore incorporation through an examination of the great variety of kinds of sociality that have translated themselves into the form of the Anglo-American corporation, including an Indian village, US churches, parts of the Pakistan army, Maori/Native American/Canadian tribes, New Guinea descent groups. Of particular interest is how both the pre-existing sociality and the emergent corporation are shaped by their relations.

Moroccan Immigrant Childhoods in Spain: The Everyday Politics of Belonging

Inmaculada García-Sánchez (Temple)

My recent book, Language and Muslim Immigrant Childhoods: The Politics of Belonging (2014), underscores the importance of studying immigrant children’s everyday lives and discursive practices to trace how the countervailing forces at play in transnational, diasporic settings impact these children’s sense of belonging and emerging processes of identification in the most immediate contexts of their daily existence. Moroccan immigrant children, in particular, walk a tight rope between difference and belonging as they simultaneously participate in their own immigrant community and a “host” society deeply ambivalent toward the multicultural politics of belonging provoked by recent migratory trends. In contemporary Spain, this ambivalence resonates forcefully in the current geopolitical climate of suspicion surrounding Muslim and North African immigrants as actualizations of the Moor invaders of centuries past.

In light of this ideologically and historically-saturated problematization of Moroccan immigrants, I explore children’s daily social engagements and face-to-face interactions in dialectic relation with broader cultural logics and socio-political discourses implicated in conceptualizations of inclusion/exclusion. At school, for instance, I examine how racialized exclusion is a product of everyday practice and of interpersonal relations. Through regimes of linguistically mediated surveillance, Spanish children mark the behavior of their Moroccan immigrant peers as deviant and establish the boundaries of unmarked ideological fields of naturalized social norms and behaviors. In this analysis, I highlight the role of everyday talk and face-to-face interactions in how processes of racialization establish inclusion/exclusion boundaries and reinforce social inequalities. This attention to everyday face-to-face talk-in-interaction is important both theoretically and analytically to complement the rich body of scholarship on language and racialized exclusion that has so far focused more intently on the institutional, political, and everyday discursive construction of social difference and racialized categories by members of dominant majorities.

The Poetics of our Civics: Binary Tracks in Talk about Democracy and Engagement in the US

Debra Spitulnik Vidali (Emory)

While many young adults in the United States would be hard pressed to provide a comprehensive definition of the word “democracy,” many engage the meanings of democracy indirectly, as they grapple with the meaning and relevance of voting. To vote or not, and to register to vote or not, are highly salient issues for many as first time voters, and as election campaigns increasingly target young voters. This paper examines the interactional alignments that occur in their conversations, around meanings of democracy and voting, particularly in relation to pervasive modes of binary or dualistic classifications of political stance and political engagement. I argue that political subjectivity is located in such interactional alignments and “stances of (dis)engagement” with the public sphere and publicly circulating discourse. Data stem from over 100 hours of recorded conversations and interviews among young adults (ages 18-25) in the Atlanta area.

‘Raising Voice’ in Kathmandu: Sound, Publics, and Political Subjectivity

Laura Kunreuther (Bard College)

In this paper, I explore practices associated with ‘raising voice’ (āwāj uthāune), a discourse that has become prominent in public media and popular speech in Nepal particularly since the democracy movements of 1990 and 2006. Āwāj uthāune clearly resonates with global discourses of the voice as a metonym of political agency, consciousness, and empowerment. But unlike the English term “voice,” āwāj also refers to material, “natural” or “non-human” noise and sounds that fall outside of discourse and sometimes defy intentional meaning. Many examples of ‘raising voice’ that I discuss here entail the broadcast of non-discursive sounds through various media – the FM radio, street protests, performance art. The discourse of āwāj and āwāj uthāune thus asks us to take seriously the connections between political metaphors of voice and the social politics of sound in understanding contemporary political subjectivity within Nepal and beyond its borders. What kinds of sounds do people associate with the notion of ‘raising voice’ and democracy – and what kinds of desires and subjects do these sounds animate? How might we rethink the global metaphor of voice by interrogating it through the concept of āwāj? By focusing on the materiality of the sounds of āwāj uthāune, I argue that sound plays a key role in the affective and embodied dimensions of political subjectivity. Moreover I suggest, sound itself must be recognized as having political dimensions.

Leadership Talk and Language Alternation in the Indonesian Bureaucracy

Zane Goebel (La Trobe University, Australia)
12/04/2013                                               *in Rm 345

In recent years the study of the relationship between talk and the doing of leadership has gained increasing attention from linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists. Even so, as with much research on organization talk, these studies focus on the micro analysis of situated talk in monolingual, typically ‘English’ speaking settings. In this paper I start to add to this literature by looking at how a boss moves between Indonesian and Javanese to do leadership. My empirical focus will be recordings of meetings made during five months of fieldwork in a government bureau in Semarang in the 2003-2004. I show that while Indonesian is used to do much transactional work (e.g. opening meetings, allocating turns), Javanese does both transactional and relational work (e.g. building and maintaining positive working relationships), often in ways that differ to earlier accounts of Javanese usage. In interpreting this usage I suggest that the use of Javanese fragments – along with other leadership practices – help build debts that need to be repaid, typically by the carrying out of directives and the smooth and effective operation of this bureau.

Kawaii Me Not: Cuteness, Gender, and Language-Longing in Chicano Rap-Fan Videos on YouTube

 Norma Mendoza-Denton  (University of Arizona)
10/16/2013                    *in Rm. 345

This research intends to address the apparent paradox in the use of signifiers of cuteness (kawaii) in the visual culture of YouTube videos produced by young fans of Chicano (Cholo) rappers.  In these videos, we find the juxtaposition of kawaii visual representations with talk about violence that characterizes the hypermasculine style of Cholo rappers. I begin by revisiting some of Anne Allison’s arguments about cuteness as cultural capital in the international rise of Japanese Pokémon, as well as some of my own work on semiotic hitchhiking and hypermasculinity in the portrayal of cholos, especially through creaky voice. Data collected from YouTube video postings by fans of Chicano gangster rappers will be examined for the layering of semiotic elements, both visual and linguistic. I further consider a related question: could Homies be the next Pokémon?  Homies figurines and toys constitute material culture that both alludes to and longs for the 1920s zenith of Mexican artistic expression, and for the more recent Chicano prison and lowrider art. I will debate the question of the moral panics of Cholafied art by arguing that postwar Japan was in a particular space in its bid for participation in the global economy, and that Cholo references and the status of Latinos in the United States can not yet be “deodorized” (Allison 2003) in a similar way.