Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This paper considers voice (Bakhtin 1981) in fictional field notes and analytical briefs written by university students enrolled in an introductory linguistic anthropology course. Introductory anthropology courses, in general, and linguistic anthropology courses, in particular, are challenged to provide authentic field experiences for their students. Linguistic anthropology students are hampered by lack of time to find a field site, build rapport, and engage in meaningful participant observation. Moreover, they often do not have the linguistic expertise or social acumen to work in communities where different language(s) are spoken and/or communicative practices are enacted. Without authentic field experiences, students do not have the opportunity to be socialized into disciplinary writing practices (i.e., writing and analyzing field notes) (Turner 2007). To address this problem, students in an introductory linguistic anthropology course, first collectively engaged in world building and conlanging. Then, inspired by the fictional ethnographic field notes in Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the students wrote their own field notes about the communicative practices in their imagined world. This paper specifically examines the bricolage of the students’ field notes and analyses to explore how students’ voices evoke, reify, and contest a stereotypical anthropological register (Agha 2007; Turner 2007). World building and conlanging cannot truly mimic real-world ethnographic experience. However, the students’ voices in their fictional field notes and analyses demonstrate that world building and conlanging can serve as an initial means of socializing students into the ethnographic imagination and practices of linguistic anthropologists.