2008-09 Catalog

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Program Description

Language and Power

NEW! Last Updated: 12/04/2008

Spring quarter

Faculty: Susan Fiksdal linguistics, Eric Stein anthropology, Diego de Acosta linguistics

Major areas of study include anthropology, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, gender and ethnic studies.

Class Standing: This lower-division program is designed for 50% freshmen and 50% sophomores.

Are some languages more powerful than others? To what extent does language have the power to shape the way we think and define ourselves? How are nations held together or torn apart by the languages spoken by diverse internal publics? What is the power of silences, of that which cannot be said? This program will explore these questions and others through the lenses of sociolinguistics and cultural anthropology. We will examine the ways that gender and social exclusions are constructed through language at a macro and micro level. At the macro level, we will consider the discourse of medicine, politics, advertising and law in the US and in the broader context of other cultures, particularly those of Southeast Asia. At the micro level, we will examine hierarchical languages like Javanese, through which people re-inscribe the social order through every speech act by talking up to superiors and talking down to subordinates. We will weigh the privileges entailed in gendered language and investigate how people accept, contest or redefine the categories that come to define their identities. We will look at dialects and standard languages and discover how these categories came to exist and why they matter in our lives today.

Through the course of the program, students will learn about the theories of power of Max Weber, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. Our sources for analysis will include novels, news reports, ethnographies, conversations, commercials and New Media (blogs and video sources on the Internet). We will study and analyze these texts in detail through workshops and research projects. You can expect to learn the ways that language creates and maintains world views and ideologies, from the vast workings of totalitarian regimes to the everyday interactions with individuals around us. You will also learn major concepts and methodologies of sociolinguistics and cultural anthropology.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 69

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in anthropology, law, linguistics, teaching and literature.

Planning Units: Programs for Freshmen, Culture, Text and Language

Program Revisions

Date Revision
January 11th, 2008 This is a new program, not published in the catalog.
June 12th, 2008 Steve Hendricks is no longer teaching this program.
December 4th, 2008 Diego de Acosta added to the teaching team.