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Linguistic Anthropology


Program Description

Why does language matter? What can it tell us about power and inequality in the contemporary world? What avenues towards change and social justice can it help open? In linguistic anthropology, we take a practical, from-the-ground-up approach to questions that range from the cognitive and cultural nature of language to the communicative processes that shape social difference—and different life chances—along axes of race, class, gender, and more.

Linguistic Anthropology offers a technical vocabulary and a rigorous methodological framework for discovering the mechanics of how interactions proceed—whether personal or public, whether originating in grassroots or official concerns, and however mundane or consequential the stakes. Language is fundamental for grasping how social relationships and structures solidify and disintegrate, how political regimes become durable or fail, and thus, also, how people devise new possibilities and alternative futures. With its careful attention to the details of human interaction, Linguistic Anthropology helps us get to the heart of how people make, unmake, and remake the complex social worlds they inhabit.

At UCSD, the Linguistic Anthropology concentration offers a platform for research on a wide variety of topics and field-sites across the globe; students’ projects are enriched not just through courses and advising, but through the Linguistic Anthropology Speaker Series and collaborative events with other west coast programs. The Linguistic Anthropology Lab provides a space where students can learn and experiment with new audiovisual and statistical research methods, as well as develop presentations of their own research findings in various media. Faculty interests include gesture and sign language; media and publics; law, indigeneity, and the state; and, in particular, the shifting boundaries of ethnicity, race and class in the multilingual societies of the Americas.