Linguistic Anthropology: On the Power of Gestures, Jokes, and Words
We often think of language as simply a means of expressing ideas and exchanging information. But as we move through our daily lives, our words and gestures continually construct, negotiate, and contest our identities, social worlds, and political conditions. This class explores the powerful role played by communication--and miscommunication--in the formation of gender dynamics, class relations, ethnic/racial identities, cultural institutions, and national boundaries. Students gain an understanding of the anthropological subfield of linguistic anthropology through ethnographic readings and firsthand observation of linguistic forms and language practices. Readings examine the ideas about language and complex dynamics and multiple layers of meaning in everyday language use, from high school chitchat, to asylum interviews, group therapy in drug rehab to online rants about Starbucks coffee.