Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Linguistic Anthropology rocks my world.

Who'd have thought? To me, the name implies the squared-off tubular metal of chairs in an HMO doctor's waiting room--clinical, yet a bit dingy and frayed around the edges. Something one does because one ought, rather than because one wants to.

But lo and behold, this stuff is interesting! Last night I read about the ways children are socialized into thinking, talking, and behaving about food in Italian and American families ("Socializing Taste," Ochs, Pontecorvo, and Fasulo, Ethnos 61, 1/2:7-46, 1996). The Americans, not surprisingly, come across quite badly, stressing moral reasons and attempting to 'contract' with their kids to eat vegetables, while the Italians chose to treat their children as people and to talk primarily about the pleasures of food with them.

And just now I read an even more engrossing article by Carol Cohn about language use amongst the people (mostly men) who worked in nuclear war strategy in the Reagan years. Not surprisingly, their language is distinctly gendered (how can it not be, talking about missiles and "penetration aids"?!?), but it also works on themes of male childbearing, religion, and domestic metaphors ("pat the missile," "silos," etc.). She also discusses her experience learning that jargon, and the way it makes expressing certain things (like peace) impossible. That citation, for anyone who's interested (and has JStor access) is "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals," Signs, 12/4: 687-718, 1987.

Next I have an article about teaching a magic trick.

As for what this all has to do with music...well, we'll see--but for the moment, I'm having a blast?


mmmqq said...

Dang, girl, you just now figuring this out?? Of course, there are boring tracts on any subject imaginable, but ling. anth. can be some gnarly stuff. The good gnarly, that is. Sadly, I had to take plain ol' general linguistics in undergrad instead. Still a cool class, but the focus was entirely different.

T said...

Yeah, Qwags, I thought you'd appreciate that post :-)

I had regular linguistics as an undergrad, too--well, one class of it. I loved it, but somehow got distracted and never wound up taking any more. My one venture into the anthro department as an undergrad was an unmitigated failure, though--or rather, an unmitigated D! I got really fed up with the pace of the class & the fucking Trobriand Islanders, so I stopped going and spent those hours with the fiddle instead. But if we'd been reading this kind of stuff I'd probably have changed majors. Oh, well. Better late than never!

mmmqq said...

Malinowski, eh? Pfft. I mean, don't get me wrong....fascinating.... truly fascinating stuff. But give me Pigs for the Ancestors any day.

Ann said...

you see, linguistics is magnificent!
you don't happen to have an e-copy of that ethnos article that you could email me, do you?