Linguistic Anthropology and Literary and Cultural Studies:
A Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, 2018-2019

Michael Lucey, Departments of Comparative Literature and French
Tom McEnaney, Departments of Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese
Andrew Garrett, Department of Linguistics

This seminar aims to explore the potential of a set of concepts, tools, and critical practices developed in the field of linguistic anthropology for work being done in the fields of literary and cultural criticism.

The seminar will have two halves. In three sessions in Fall 2018, we aim to create a common frame of reference by introducing and elaborating recent linguistic anthropological thought about an interlinked set of topics that are also currently prominent in literary and cultural studies: translation/transduction, sound, and publics. The four sessions of the second half of the seminar, in Spring 2019, will be spent exploring how those topics are, or could be deployed, in interdisciplinary and intercultural work that investigates discourses and practices of sexuality, religion, and politics. A final segment of the seminar provides an occasion, in the light of the earlier work of the seminar, to investigate the history, and the political and ethical commitments of the field of linguistic anthropology itself.

Central questions to be pursued throughout the seminar include: How might attunement to language’s dynamic use—the shifts in meaning as words and utterances travel in different contexts—alter our conceptions of texts as primarily referential objects? What can we learn of literary forms when we consider them as the effects of a series of ritualized performances rather than transhistorical norms? What can attention to sound’s social functions teach us about how sounds hail, divide, or otherwise create communities of all kinds?

Full Seminar Description

Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship for a one-year appointment with an expected start date of July 1, 2018. The Fellowship is connected to a year-long Sawyer Seminar on Literature & Culture and Linguistic Anthropology that is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Fellow will receive a salary of $48,216 – $58,560, commensurate with experience for the year, plus benefits, and may not hold any other appointment during the period of the Sawyer Seminar fellowship. The Seminar aims to investigate the relevance of concepts, tools, and interpretive practices of linguistic anthropology to scholars in the humanities today. Areas to be covered in the seminar include translation/transduction, sound, and the formation of publics, as well as the cultural practices of religion, sexuality, and politics. For more information about the position, including required qualifications and application materials, go to:

Questions may be directed to Michael Lucey,

The University of California, Berkeley is an AA/EEO employer.


Image credit: “Micro-Contextual Semiotic of Indexicality,” in Michael Silverstein, “Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life,” Language & Communication 23, no. 3–4 (2003)