797 - Amerindian Modernity and Political Ontology

16.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
17.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30

Convener 1: Walker, Harry (London School of Economics , London, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)
Convener 2: High, Casey (Goldsmiths, London, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)

Linguistic anthropology and the study of material and visual culture are both enjoying a revitalisation within and beyond the native Americas, but remain largely separate from each other, even while recent theoretical developments hold out promise of uniting them around such themes as power, agency, and intentionality. Concepts derived from Amerindian cosmology, including the theory of perspectivism, have meanwhile proved remarkably fertile and analytically stimulating, but remain mostly aloof from historical considerations as well as pressing contemporary concerns, including their potential role in intercultural relationships and the political struggles of native peoples as they seek to balance often conflicting desires for cultural autonomy and the benefits of citizenship. This panel will explore changing material and discursive practices in the contemporary native Americas, in contexts of intercultural and interethnic relations as well as increasing engagement with the technological and bureaucratic apparatuses of the State, the market economy, and Christianization. We will ask how ostensibly “modern” material culture such as official documents, identity cards, money, and manufactured goods, including new communications technologies such as radios or mobile phones, are incorporated into or read through pre-existing frameworks of value and notions of materiality and agency, as well how these objects may be altering those understandings. We will also consider how new or emerging styles of speaking and writing, in either native or non-native languages – such as new-style political oratory, Christian prayer or evangelical discourse, or written communications - express specific language ideologies, including assumptions about the efficacy of speech and power of words, the nature of agency, sincerity, and the speaking subject. As such, the panel aims to override traditional disciplinary boundaries between linguistics and material culture studies in order to rethink concepts of ontology, semiotic ideology, and personhood, and to situate them in relation to processes of social and cultural change. Ho w do changing technologies and linguistic practices interact with ontological assumptions, and h ow, if at all, do ontologies change? Are they single or multiple, and how are they contested? In what ways do Amerindian experiences of new languages, technologies, and political relations evoke particular semiotic ideologies, and how should we think about the relationship between materiality and immateriality, or words and things, in these new or emerging contexts? Is there a shift in focus from the indexical to the symbolic properties of objects, or other evidence of semiotic abstraction? Is there such a thing as an Amerindian modernity? We are interested in papers that approach these issues from either a linguistic or a material perspective, or both.

Keywords: modernity, materiality, discourse, agency, ontology

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