Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: In recent years, semiotic anthropologists have argued for considering animation as a key trope complementing the well-established paradigm of performance in understanding participant frameworks in the twenty-first century. New media and labor ecologies create new conditions for questions of authorship, voice, and embodiment, which Silvio (2010) has argued require moving beyond dramaturgical metaphors of performance of embodied actors on stage (where the self/role dualism involves only one body) to metaphors of animation. Here, the self/role dualism is mapped instead to a heterogeneous array of bodies, some human, some nonhuman. Anthropologists have extended questions of characterization, projection, and disembodiment to a range of sites, including online platforms and video games (Manning and Gershon 2013), puppet stages (Silvio forthcoming), and voice actors’ recording studios (Nozawa 2016). Beyond such venues, institutions, and events specifically framed and understood as media or entertainment, however, we find the analytic purchase of the semiotics of animation to extend to humans’ everyday interactions in the world in which they live, work, and move. How can animation call attention to quotidian acts of encountering life in everyday objects (Hales forthcoming)? How do mediated landscapes and infrastructures serve to enliven these spaces of the mundane with greater possibilities for social engagement, whether with animated figures or with strangers?
In this panel, we regard animation as a heterogeneous process of making things into persons and persons into things. Each paper explores classic tropes of the lyric that Johnson (2008) analyzes as tropes of animation, involving either addressing that which is absent, dead, or inanimate (apostrophe) or allowing that which is absent, dead, or inanimate to speak (prosopopeia, or characterization (Nozawa 2016)). Such diverse animations can both enliven human-nonhuman relations and can help constitute publics (Warner 2002) by transforming relations between urban inhabitants and their daily commute. Such processes infuse fantasy and desire into daily commutes, offer new modes of interacting with lost loved ones, and introduce new models of office subjectivity for workers to animate. This panel argues for considering the animations that unfold in everyday lives, whether these occur on virtual platforms or public transport infrastructures, and whether these animations give rise to romantic hopes or articulate new workplace ethics.