The Legacy of Dell Hymes: Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice

By Paul V. Kroskrity; Anthony K. Webster | Go to book overview

10
Contested Mobilities:
On the Politics and Ethnopoetics
of Circulation

Charles L. Briggs

LIKE FRANZ BOAS and Edward Sapir, Dell Hymes connected linguistic anthropology with social/cultural anthropology. The terms he coined and the perspectives he advanced drew on wider anthropological perspectives, thus bringing linguistic anthropologists into larger conversations and enabling work in linguistic anthropology to gain greater visibility among colleagues with different subdisciplinary allegiances. I would argue that this is precisely the move that has long fostered new spurts of creativity within the subdiscipline and greater visibility for linguistic anthropologists. Work on performance inaugurated in the 1970s by Hymes (1981) and Richard Bauman (1977) energized not only anthropology but also linguistics, communication, and literary studies; the cross-fertilization between linguistic anthropology and folkloristics at this juncture was crucial, as has been true at other points as well. Ideologies of language (Kroskrity 2000; Schieffelin et al. 1998) suddenly transported linguistic anthropology from the relative doldrums of the 1980s to a period when new positions opened up and anthropologists came to see that linguistic anthropologists had a great deal to offer to studies on such topics as colonialism (Hanks 2010; Irvine 2001; Keane 2007), media anthropology (Spitulnik 2002), and more. A crucial feature of these points of intersection is that they did not simply “borrow” from adjacent fields but critically revised concepts in social/cultural anthropology as well as assumptions underpinning linguistic anthropology.

We are, I would argue, at precisely another juncture where a shot of epistemological energy would be particularly valuable. A number of linguistic anthropologists have recently taken on issues that are of interest to other anthropologists by focusing on race, racism, and anti-immigrant discourses (Blommaert and Verschueren 1998;

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