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Events and Past Seminars



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Listen to Past Seminars

(CULTURAL PLANET SERIES) "Challenges to Livelihood Resilience in the Anthropocene: Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management in a New Guinea Mining Area" (Jerry Jacka)

Some in the environmental sciences argue that we have entered a new geological epoch--the anthropocene--in which humans are impacting the planet at a global scale. Dr. Jerry Jacka explores this idea among the Porgera people of Papua New Guinea, indigineous forager-farmers who host one of the world's largest glod mines on their lands. Mining development has transformed Porgera society and environment; Jacka assesses these impacts by looking at changes in Porgeran ecological knowledge and resource management practices.

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Poster
Presentation

"Meeting of the National Capital Area Linguistic Anthropologists and Recovering Voices" (Gabriela Perez Baez, Gywniera Isaac, Ruth Rouvier)

Recovering Voices will host the next meeting of the National Capital Area Linguistic Anthropologists (NCALA). This is an opportunity to learn more about Recovering Voices and the work of colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution.In collaboration with communities and international partners, the Recovering Voices program
seeks to improve access to the Smithsonian’s expertise and diverse collections – archival, biological and cultural – as well as support interdisciplinary research in support of endangered languages. Through a series of short presentations, members of the Recovering Voices team will provide a general overview of the program and discuss some of our key activities, including current research in addition to outreach and education initiatives.



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Poster

"Imaging Voices: Optical Scanning Applied to Recorded Sound Preservation and Access" (Carl Haber)

Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877. Until about 1950 most recordings were made on mechanical media such as wax, shellac, lacquer, and aluminum. Some contain material of interest to linguists and ethnographers, whose predecessors were among the first to adopt sound recording as a research tool. The records may be in obsolete formats, are sometimes damaged, decaying, or are considered too delicate to play.

The playback of mechanical sound carriers has been an inherently invasive process. Recently, a series of techniques, based upon non-contact optical metrology and image processing, have been applied to create, analyze, and play back high resolution digital surface profiles of these materials.

This approach has been tested on many historical recordings including a variety of ethnographic collections. The method, and current results, including pilot studies, and measurements of some of the earliest known sound recordings, are the focus of this talk.

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Poster
Presentation

(CULTURAL PLANET SERIES) "Endangered language, endangered knowledge: The documentation of Ixcatec" (Michael Swanton)

Located at the heart of one of the most floristically diverse regions of Mexico, the town of Santa María Ixcatlán is home to the last ten speakers of the Ixcatec language. This indigenous language belongs to the Popolocan branch of the vast Otomanguean stock. Over the past few years, an interdisciplinary, international team comprised of linguists and botanists have come together to document the language before it ceases to be spoken. An important focus of the team is the documentation of the ecological knowledge embedded in the language, hence the interdisciplinary approach. Two aspects of the Ixcatec documentation project will be discussed during this presentation. First that the broadened, interdisciplinary horizons of language documentation present significant methodological challenges. Second, that the relationship between language and ecological knowledge in the context of critical language endangerment is complex and its analysis reveals important aspects of the process through which a community may or may not be able to retain ecological knowledge.

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Poster
Presentation

"Language and gender in an Amazonian society: male and female speech in Karajá (Macro-Jê, Brazil" (Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro)

Karajá, an indigenous language from Central Brazil, shows differences between female and male speech to a degree that is not found in other Brazilian languages.  These differences, first mentioned by Ehrenreich (1891, 1894) and studied more recently by Fortune & Fortune (1975) and Borges (1994, 1997), can generally be accounted for by regular phonological rules.  As in Koasati (Haas 1964), female speech can be considered as more conservative, male speech being characterized, in general, by the deletion of a velar stop occurring in the corresponding female speech form. This talk presents an up-to-date description of the differences between female and male speech in Karajá, taking into consideration for the first time data from all four dialects of the language and approaching facts that were not mentioned in previous studies.  Social correlates and possible scenarios for the diachronic origin of such distinctions will also be discussed.

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Poster
Handout

"Fragments of a Language Practice: Documenting the Chinantec Whistled Speech Register" (Mark Sicoli)

Speakers of SochiapamChinantec of Oaxaca, Mexico have historically used a whistled linguistic register for long-distance communication. Whistled speech was once such an important element of the language-culture of the community that boys who could not effectively communicate through whistles upon reaching adulthood would be fined bi-annually until developing competence. Whistled speech organized the police force, and served the general community for distance communication across the mountainous landscape—needs fulfilled today by walkie-talkies and public address systems.  In 2011, an interdisciplinary research team funded by a RAPID response NSF grant worked with five remaining community members who knew how to use whistled speech.  

See below for Whistles in the Mist: Whistled Speech in Oaxaca presented during the seminar.

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Sicoli Poster
Sicoli Presentation


"Jesuit Grammarians in the Chaco:
Their Analytical Strengths and Weaknesses"
(Willem de Reuse)

The Society of Jesus, more than any other order missionizing in the New World, put a special value upon learning the indigenous languages, and if Jesuits wrote grammars of them, they were often quite perceptive and rigorous. Furthermore, Jesuits with non-Spanish language backgrounds brought a variety of analytical skills with them. Although Zwartjes (2010) claims that the education of Jesuits was so international that their native language background would have mattered little, in this talk de Reuse argues that native language background and nationality mattered to some extent.

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Download associated materials: de Reuse_20130213.pdf

"Encounter with the Harrington Collection: Building a New Generation of Access"
(Candace Greene and Stephanie Christensen)

The John P. Harrington Papers, one of the largest collections in the National Anthropological Archives, has been extensively used by researchers as diverse as linguists, ethnobotanists, environmental scientists, cultural anthropologists, and Native scholars from Oklahoma to Oregon. The NAA has launched a new effort to make this material more accessible, moving from microfilm and audio tape to online access. Members of the team will speak about some of the challenges, achievements, and rewards of work with this complex and challenging collection.

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Harrington_20130116.pdf

"Love Letters and Goodbyes in Nepal: The Case for Linguistic Anthropology" (Laura M. Ahearn)
This talk analyzes some of the many social transformations that the village of Junigau, Nepal, has experienced over the past several decades and demonstrates the benefits of close attention to language for analyzing social change. Focusing on shifts in courtship and marriagepractices, Ahearn shows how the advent of female literacy led to an unanticipated switch from arranged and capture marriage to “love” marriage in the 1990s. She then turns her current work on the process of leave-taking in Nepal, examining farewell routines at the micro level and leave-taking at more macro levels in order to illustrate the benefits of linguistic anthropology for understanding cultural meanings and social relations.

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Ahearn_20121011.pdf



"Cloud traces: Texts from the codices of our memories" (Víctor Cata and Emiliano Cruz Santiago)
This presentation focuses on texts recovered from Zapotec knowledge bearers considered to be living codices who safeguard the memory of the Peoples of the Clouds. The texts are from Juchitán in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and from San Bartolomé Loxicha in the Souther Sierra, in Oaxaca, both Zapotec towns but with distinct Zapotec languages and cultural practices. The voices recovered through these two language and knowledge documentation efforts bear witness to distinct philosophies, cosmogonies and literary traditions. Further, they provide evidence of the changes taking place among the Peoples of the Clouds and in their cultures and languages which are under pressure given the dominance of Spanish in Mexico.


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Zapotec_20121108.pdf
Zapotec Handout.pdf
Zapotec1 Victor Cata presentation
Zapotec2 Emiliano Cruz presentation

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