Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Resistance
Secondary Theme: Resilience
Studies of children and youth, whose lives are shaped by rapid developments in language, cognition, and social participation, have often centered on change. In this panel, we consider how children, as active agents in their own changing social and linguistic capacities, respond to structural transformations associated with modernity in contemporary Asia and the Pacific. While the notion of modernity has been deconstructed within Anthropology (for example, Habermas 1987, Harvey 1989, Latour 1993), many communities experience the current moment of late Capitalism through disruptions in the institutions that organize the practices of everyday life. In particular, social and economic changes have also led to the reconfiguration of families, households, and schools, the primary institutional sites in which children’s everyday lives unfold.
The theories and methods of language socialization call for the longitudinal ethnographic examination of how children are socialized to use language, as well as socialized through language (Ochs and Schieffelin 1986) in everyday activities. Panelists employ the language socialization paradigm as an analytical entry point into understanding how communities frame morality as a response to the structural changes that they call modernization. In this vein, we engage with children’s orientations towards their communities’ notions of morality through the analysis of everyday verbal and embodied interaction. We consider how features of everyday interaction, such as joint attention and shared activity contexts, lead children to both display (and thus reproduce), and resist (and thus attempt to transform), their communities’ normative notions of morality.
In this endeavor, we present ethnographic case studies of communities across South, Inner, and East Asia and the Pacific that are united in their moral concerns with modernity. We trace how morality and resistance play out across multiple, co-constitutive levels of social life: in formal linguistic changes associated with language shift; in children’s face-to-face interactions with peers, teachers, and multi-generational kin groups; and, in the meanings childhood carries for communities facing modernization. Panel presentations focus on: Tibetan children whose social contexts of language learning, and also the language varieties associated with these contexts, have shifted through rural to urban migration; school-aged girls navigating the meanings of religion and gendered morality in a multinational community in India, that has, in contrast, seen urban to rural migration; classroom routines in Buddhist weekend schools in Ho Chi Minh City that associate children’s morality with middle-class aspirations, notions of ethical consumption, and social deference; transcultural training of embodied deference rituals experienced by monolingual Taiwanese children when they visited their Vietnamese mothers’ natal homes and interacted with their relatives in the Mekong Delta region; and the production of age differences in the Marshall Islands that leads us to rethink socialization theory’s distinction between experts and novices.