China Seminar 8 September 2011: James Wilkerson

Language, Modernity and Governmentality in National Minority Districts in Southwest China in Contemporary Times


Speaker: prof. James Wilkerson (Institute of Anthropology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan)



(PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT DAY, TIME AND LOCATION from the usual meetings on wednesdays)

The background of the research that is the basis for this lecture is that a broad decades-long shift in the study of language and culture in anthropology and the humanities and social sciences recommends greater attention to the relationship between language and culture in the multiple modernities in the People’s Republic of China. The purpose is to focus attention at the crucial level of the space between the rural village and the county seat on the competing modernities of PRC state functionaries, minority intellectuals, and local cadre concerning the relationship between language and culture. Together, preliminary inquires suggest that this approach offers not only new empirical understandings of language and culture in modernity in the Peoples Republic of China, but it also brings into focus the fate of national minority language and culture in what V. S. Naipal called “wounded civilizations.” Understanding of the continuities of statecraft and governmentality in the successor states of classical civilizations in general and in the PRC in particular enhances scholarly understandings of language ideology and language practice in states with significant indigenous peoples who are marginal to the central state and yet at the same time integral to the those states definitions of what it is to be modern. This lecture may be of special significance because the extent literature in linguistic anthropology on language ideology places comparatively limited emphasis upon language and culture in relationship to modernity in post-socialist or quasi post-socialist states.

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