Retrospective Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Exchange
Crying is one of the most basic and universal of human expressions, a powerfully affective act that is manifested from the first moments of life. While children’s crying has been traditionally examined from psychological and developmental perspectives as a manifestation of internal states, wants, and needs (see Vingerhoits 2012), in anthropology there has been a long-standing interest in the socio-cultural organization of how caregivers deal with children’s distress and socialize their emotions (e.g., Goodwin & Cekaite, 2018; Harkness & Super, 1985; Ochs, 1988; Schieffelin, 1990; Wilce, 1988). Language socialization studies, in particular, have suggested that children’s crying and adults’ responses to it serve as a vehicle for inculcating children into culturally specific ways of thinking, acting, and feeling as part of what it means to be a member of a social group. In linguistic and ethnographic research on US and Swedish family life, Goodwin and Cekaite (2018) show ways in which caregiver responses to children’s crying are embodied and highly affectively loaded, aimed to regulate and comfort children though the use of multiple modalities, such as touch and affect words. These responses are embedded within complex participation frameworks (Goffman, 1981; Goodwin & Goodwin, 2004) that can implicate various and, at times, multiple participants. Over 40 years of linguistic anthropological work among families and children’s peer group, M.H. Goodwin has shown that affective stance can be understood and analysed as a language-mediated and an embodied resource, “lodged within embodied sequences of action” (e.g. Goodwin, 1990; 2006; M.H. Goodwin et al., 2012) located within dynamically evolving participation frameworks. Yet, there have been few studies that have examined cross-cultural congruence and variation, and the embodied and material features that constitute caregivers’ and other members’ responses to children’s crying.
This panel builds upon the insights of earlier studies by adding a cross-cultural dimension and by paying close attention to the discursive—verbal and embodied—organization of young children’s crying and responses to it as a situated social activity. It addresses the following questions:
(1) What linguistic, material, and embodied resources do caregivers and other members deploy in response to children’s crying?
(2) What kinds of embodied participation frameworks do they make relevant and evoke through these responses?
(3) What socio-cultural meanings, especially related to emotion and identity, do they convey through them?
(4) What are some of the similar and different features of these responses and socializing potentials among the six societies/communities examined?
The papers span a range of communities and societies (Russian, Sweden, Japan, Namibia, Mayan, Mixtec), child-rearing contexts (urban and rural, informal family and formal educational settings) and ages of children (several months up to 5-years old). The studies adopt a common theoretical and methodological perspective of language socialization and demonstrate ways in which crying situations are tied to moral norms, social and institutional roles and responsibilities, and the wider societal notions of personhood and subjectivity. M. H. Goodwin will be the discussant.