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Posts from the ‘Linguistic Anthropology’ Category

Translation and Materiality: The Travels of European Porcelain (2017 Bauman Lecture)

News of the upcoming Richard Bauman Lecture in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University is now circulating on campus. Here are the details about this year’s talk by Professor Susan Gal of the University of Chicago. Quoting:

“Translation and Materiality: The Travels of European Porcelain”
Dr. Susan Gal

Friday, March 24th
3:00 PM
Wylie Hall 005
Indiana University Bloomington


Porcelain is, today, a familiar material of dishes, figurines and tiles. The qualities of such objects – fineness, artistry – point to similar qualities in their buyers and users. Certainly, that is the role of material objects in systems of social distinction. Yet, this view often presumes that material qualities pre-exist the social, and need only be recognized. In some versions of the current ontological debate in Anthropology and Cultural Studies, materiality is the ultimate limit on cultural interpretation. I argue, instead, that the properties of materials are not fixed. They are semiotic achievements reached by a dialectical process of embodied social interaction with objects within political and economic institutions. The histories of “porcelain” in Europe show the varied qualities it has embodied as it has been swept up – and translated – into diverse regimes of knowledge, state economic strategies, and politico-ethical discourses. Translations of porcelain destabilized attributed qualities, changing “it” as sign and as material.

On the New Volume of Museum Anthropology Review

Museum Anthropology Review (MAR) has just published a new double issue—its first themed collection. Volume 7, number 1-2 of MAR collects papers originally presented at a January 2012 workshop titled “After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge.” Hosted by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and funded by the (U.S.) National Science Foundation and the Understanding the American Experience and World Cultures Consortia of the Smithsonian Institution, the workshop was organized by Kimberly Christen (Washington State University), Joshua Bell (Smithsonian Institution), and Mark Turin (Yale University). The workshop brought together scholars from indigenous communities, cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, linguistics, and collecting institutions to document best practices and case studies of digital repatriation in order to theorize the broad impacts of such processes in relation to: linguistic revitalization of endangered languages, cultural revitalization of traditional practices, and the creation of new knowledge stemming from the return of digitized material culture. Like the workshop itself, the peer-reviewed and revised papers collected in MAR ask how, and if, marginalized communities can reinvigorate their local knowledge practices, languages, and cultural products through the reuse of digitally repatriated materials and distributed technologies. The authors of the collected papers all have expertise in applied digital repatriation projects and share theoretical concerns that locate knowledge creation within both culturally specific dynamics and technological applications.

Find this special issue of MAR online at:

As it has always been, MAR is an open access, peer-reviewed journal free to all readers. With volume 8, to be published in 2014, MAR is becoming the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. It will continue to be published in partnership with the Indiana University Libraries with assistance from the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and other partners.

2014 will bring new enhancements to MAR. To keep up with the journal, please sign up as a reader, follow it on Twitter @museanthrev, and/or like it on Facebook.

“Ritual and Oratory Revisited” in Annual Review of Anthropology

The final, stable 2011 edition of the Annual Review of Anthropology (a vital, not-for-profit undertaking co-edited by Don Brenneis and Peter T. Ellison) is now available (toll access). Because the topic is of great interest to me, I was pleased to see Rupert Stasch‘s review essay on “Ritual and Oratory Revisited: The Semiotics of Effective Action.” Looking more closely, it was a welcome and nice surprise to see that he knew about my work in this realm and found a generous way to weave it into his general narrative. My writings are sometimes high in area studies interest and, conversely, less immediately engaging for scholars working elsewhere in the world, thus it is always nice when it is clear that they have been discovered by, and made sense to, a colleague working in a different context. This essay will be an invaluable resources as I take up new work on the topic. Thanks!

Check Out Roy Boney’s Awesome Graphic Feature on Cherokee Language and Literacy

Indian Country Today has just published an awesome graphic feature by Roy Boney on the history of Cherokee literacy from the time of Sequoyah to the time of unicode. I do not need to go on and on and on about it. Its really great and you need to check it out.

Recovering Voices Program Manager

Recovering Voices Program Manager (IS-301-12, $74,872)
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

We are seeking a program manager for Recovering Voices, an interdisciplinary Smithsonian program that is working with communities to document and sustain endangered languages and knowledge. Read more

On Museum Anthropology Review

I am very happy to report that the final material for Museum Anthropology Review 5(1-2) was published today, bringing the 2011 volume/issues to a close.

This was the first time that an issue was published with an initial bundle of content and then added to as the year progressed. This represents a kind of transitional strategy bridging older journal publishing norms, in which an issue is prepared and then released into the world as a fully prepared bundle, and the newer pattern in which content is prepared and released into the world as soon as it is ready, item by item. The older pattern has certain hallmarks that many are still fond of, including sequentially paginated pages (in paper-like PDF format) and a table of contents in which articles appear at the top and reviews appear at the bottom. For authors, this format makes for objects that look familiar (to custom-minded observers) on such things as C.V. and annual reports. The cost, of course, is delay in publication, as works pile up in preparation for being bundled up as issues.

The newer approaches leverages the advantages of digital publication platforms and get information in circulation as quickly as possible, something that helps the research community in many ways.

MAR is moving from the older to the newer framework and will probably use the approach adopted for volume 5 again at least for volume 6 next year. This means that volume 6(1) will appear as soon as possible and will initially contain a group of materials from the “top” of the table of contents. Additional reviews will be added to the issue’s table of contents up until the point that additional articles or other content from the top of the table of contents are ready. At that point the effort will switch over to issue 6(2).

Publishing a combined “1-2” issue for 2011 was a valuable step for me personally–beyond these considerations. It allowed me a bit more time this summer to work on other projects, something that I have sorely needed to do. While I had the help of a wonderful graduate student/editorial assistant through the middle of 2010, last academic year (2010-2011) was the first in which I handled the day to day editorial tasks on my own. This was fun and informative, of course, but there is only so much time in the day and it was nice to be able to focus this past summer on other obligations. The combined issue helped make that possible.

From a substantive point of view, 5(1-2) is full of interesting stuff and I am very thankful to the many authors, peer-reviewers, librarians, editorial board members, publishers, and other friends of MAR who have made it possible.

At 154 pages volume 5 is only #4 of 5 in terms of page length, but with 42 discrete contributions it covers a lot of interesting territory, from Captain Cook to the alternative globalization movement; from the history of shoes to the material realities of the current economic crisis. As has been true throughout the MAR experiment, contributions cover a wide diversity of world regions and theoretical, topical, and disciplinary concerns. I am especially proud of the ways that the journal continues to showcase work by the most distinguished senior scholars–generous colleagues such as Richard Bauman, Keith Hart, Marsha MacDowell, Edward T. Linenthal, and Aldona Jonaitis–alongside leading younger scholars, including folks like Karin Zitzewitz, Beth A. Buggenhagen, Elizabeth Hutchinson and so many others. I am also happy that the journal brings together, in what I think is a healthy way, the twinned and entwined concerns that are its focus—museum studies and material culture studies. Rooted in anthropology and folklore studies, MAR has been an effective meeting ground for scholars working in a great many fields. Alongside its folklorists and anthropologists, 5(1-2) features scholars representing the fields of comparative literature, history, art history, fashion studies, architecture, design, communications studies, and religious studies. This diversity is a great strength.

Also speaking to the journal’s diversity aspirations, 5(1-2) was the second issue to feature content in a language other than English. MAR 4(1) had included both French and English versions of Christian Bromberger’s commentrary on the Musée du Quai Branly and now, with 5(1-2) MAR has published a book review concurrently in Portuguese and English. Thanks go to author Lori Hall-Araujo and translator Roberta Crelier for the work on Lori’s review of Mestre Vitalino e artistas pernambucanos.

In conclusion, I wish to especially thank the authors of the issue’s peer-reviewed articles. Richard Bauman’s “Better than any monument”: Envisioning Museums of the Spoken Word is a great contribution to the history of the field, exploring the intersections of linguistic anthropology and museum anthropology. The paper continues his vital research work on the social history of early recording technologies and their intellectual and cultural ramifications. Thanks go to Carrie Hertz’ for her Costuming Potential: Accommodating Unworn Clothes. The article is a rich contribution to contemporary material culture studies, particularly relating to questions of consumption, circulation, reuse, and disposal.

The submission mailbox is always open. Please consider Museum Anthropology Review as a robust not-for-profit, gold open access publishing option for your work in museum and material culture studies.

Oklahoma Native Language and History Projects Making Progress

A round up of some good news Oklahoma.

The team at the Euchee (Yuchi) History Project has published an account of the project’s work in the prestigious journal Native South. Native South is published by the University of Nebraska Press and is made available electronically via Project Muse. The article, by Stephen A. Martin and Adam Recvlohe,  is titled, appropriately enough “The Euchee (Yuchi) History Project.” It is accessible (toll access) here:

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation have announced a series of grant awards under the Documenting Endangered Languages program. I would like to highlight the following projects pursued by friends and acquaintances and to congratulate all the grantees. Durbin Feeling (Cherokee Nation) and colleagues have received funding for “Collaborative Research: Documenting Cherokee Tone and Vowel Length.” James Rementer and colleagues at the Delaware Tribe have been awarded a grant for “Lenape Language Database Project.” Mary Linn and Amber Neely have been funded for Amber’s dissertation research on “Speaking Kiowa Today” and Sean O’Neill and Elizabeth Kickham have received support for “Choctaw Language Ideologies and their Impact on Teaching and Learning,” Elizabeth’s doctoral research. Rounding out the good news for Oklahoma language efforts, Mary Linn and Colleen Fitzgerald have received additional support for the ongoing “Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop and Documentation Project.” Congratulations to all of these language workers and the communities that stand behind them in support! Read the NEH/NSF press release here:

Ruth Finnegan’s New Book on Quotations Available in Gratis OA Form

Ruth Finnegan’s book Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation has just been published by Open Book Publishers, a not-for-profit, academic run publisher that combines no-cost online access to published works with the sale at modest cost paper and PDF versions. The no-cost online version is (interestingly) accessible via the Google Books platform. I highlight this book both because it is a contribution to the fields in which I work by a very senior and well respected scholar and because it is the first instance of an Open Book Publishers title that I have learned about and have had an chance to study. The business model, goals, and production framework of the publisher are all noteworthy and worth further study. It is important to note that the World Oral Literature Project, a “Friend of Open Folklore” organization is announced as a partner on the Open Book Publishers website where a new Oral Literature Series is announced.  These are major developments for the Open Folklore and open anthropology communities. Congratulations to everyone involved in these efforts.

(Thanks to D.N. for the tip.)

Wenner-Gren Foundation Takes Major Step for Open Access

Anthropologists have reason to cheer with news from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research that the biannual symposium proceedings published by the Foundation as an extension of the journal Current Anthropology will now be made available in open access form. Wenner-Gren Foundation President Leslie Aiello describes the move and the rationale behind it in a [toll wall protected] contribution to the latest issue of Current Anthropology [volume 51, page 727, December 2010] See: DOI: 10.1086/657920.

The two supplements published in 2010 are freely available via the journal’s page at the University of Chicago Press.  Formatted like the journal, these are book-sized edited collections organized thematically. Discussing the history of the Foundation’s Symposium efforts, Aiello writes:

The first Wenner-Gren Symposium was in 1952, and since then, more than 170 symposia and workshops have been sponsored by the foundation. Many of these have resulted in landmark edited volumes that have made significant contributions to the development of our field (see In today’s electronic age, the foundation wants to ensure that its symposia continue to have a significant impact and reach the broadest possible international audience. We believe that open-access publication in Current Anthropology is the best way to achieve this goal.

This is wonderful news and a real advancement. One more reason to say thank you to Wenner-Gren for its dedication to the discipline of anthropology. Wenner-Gren joins other scholarly foundations working to advance the cause of a more just, rational, and effective system of scholarly communication.

Note:  While there is not a press-release on the Foundation website regarding this shift, there is a discussion of the move to publishing the symposium in connection with the journal (rather than as edited books). This announcement also discusses several recent symposium volumes.

Dell Hymes’ Passing

While no obituary has appeared yet, there seems to be conclusive understanding via the moccasin telegraph that Dell Hymes has passed away. So soon after the death of Claude Lévi-Strauss, this is another significant loss in the fields of Native American studies, anthropology and folklore studies. Dell Hymes was a amazingly influential folklorist, anthropologist, and linguist who revolutionized the study of language in (/and) culture in general, and of Native American narrative traditions in particular. He made important contributions to the history of anthropology, to descriptive and theoretical linguistics, to sociolinguistics, to folkloristics, and to Native American studies. He essentially created the areas on inquiry known as (1) the ethnography of speaking and (2) ethnopoetics and he played a key role reshaping linguistic anthropology from the 1960s onward. His work is at the root of the performance orientation central in contemporary folklore studies and he directly influenced the work of a great many folklorists, including Richard Bauman, Henry Glassie, and Lee Haring, among many others. His influence in the field as practiced in the United States is pervasive.

Dell Hymes was an especially central figure for his fields of study at Indiana University, where I earned my Ph.D. and to which I returned in 2004 to join the faculty in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. At Indiana, Hymes earned his Ph.D. in 1955, studying under Carl Voegelin, a student of Alfred Kroeber and Edward Sapir, both themselves students of Franz Boas. He was deeply immersed in the Americanist tradition and he took the task of understanding, enriching, and conveying that tradition to new generations to be a key task. When he left Indiana for jobs at Harvard, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia, his impact and influence kept flowing back and influencing the faculty and students here. At Pennsylvania in particular, he worked closely with scholars that have gone on to play a key role in shaping the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Evidence of the breadth of his influence and his commitment to the Boasian vision for the study of language, culture and society can be seen in the fact that he served as president of the American Folklore Society, the American Anthropological Association, and the Linguistic Society of America.

More coherent and elaborate remembrances will be written by scholars and friends who knew him well, but I wanted to acknowledge his passing and record my appreciation for his many contributions that have enriched the fields of study in which I work.

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