Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper is inspired by Jane Hill’s groundbreaking research in Mexico, and in particular her (1985) call for a “rigorously empirical investigation of the practice of language, which will be a window on consciousness.” It is also inspired by some of Hill’s later work, in which she called for more reflexive awareness of our own linguistic practices, as well-intentioned experts, and for serious and sustained fieldwork on how expert discourses about endangered languages resonate—or fail to resonate—for the speakers of those languages. In the spirit of these interrelated projects, I take up the question of how Ayuujk (also known as Mixe) community members and language activists have been engaging with artistic, commercial, and scholarly representations of their language (including my research and writing on Ayuujk), as they work toward their own distinctive modes of advocacy and self-presentation. In particular, I examine discourses surrounding several entrepreneurial efforts currently underway in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca, the founding of a community center and language program for Ayuujk people living in Mexico City, and the writing of increasingly prominent Ayuujk intellectuals such as Yasnaya Elena Aguilar. In each of these cases, we see increasing enthusiasm for Ayuujk alternatives to mainstream Mexican tropes about indigenous languages in a way that simultaneously embraces Ayuujk identity and questions the whole idea of indigenous identity, viewed as a subordinate, colonized class position by definition.