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: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Labor
The challenge of establishing an understanding of the mutually constitutive relationship between language and social life lies at the core of linguistic anthropology as well as sociolinguistics, often addressed through the study of relatively stable communities in terms of norms and practices. This panel explores new ways of engaging with the interplay between language use and human sociality by examining processes of mutual socialization in what has been described as ‘transient social configurations’ (Mortensen 2017). Transient social configurations are defined as gatherings where people with diverse frames of reference – for instance in the form of different linguistic, sociocultural, and/or professional backgrounds – come together for a limited period of time around a shared activity. In such settings, the emergence and transformation of social and linguistic norms is brought to the fore, which can be traced by following the process of group creation and disbandment under specific conditions and in particular contexts. This offers analysts a novel vantage points from which to observe and theorize the complex relations between ‘the social’ and ‘the linguistic’.
The papers in the panel engage with what may be considered prototypical features of transient social configurations: 1) an enhanced emergent status of social and linguistic norms, 2) a heterogeneity of semiotic resources as well as frames of interpretation, and 3) an impetus to establish common ground in the carrying out of one or more joint activities. Each paper is based on ethnographic case studies of transient social configurations in a range of geographical locations (USA, Swaziland, Slovenia, Denmark and Norway) formed around a variety of activities (restaurant meetings between guests and servers, development work, theatre productions, integration courses for refugees, and construction work). By bringing together this selection of case studies and scholars from different perspectives, the aim of the panel is to critically explore and discuss the extent to which the study of transient social configurations holds the potential to generate new ways for linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists to observe and theorize human sociality.
Mortensen, J. (2017). Transient Multilingual Communities as a Field of Investigation: Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 27(3), 271-288.