Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
I am a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist who works on issues of language, agency, literacy, gender, kinship, marriage, and leave-taking in Nepal. My first book, Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal (University of Michigan Press, 2001), is about the new courtship practice of love letter writing in the Magar village where I was a Peace Corps volunteer for several years in the early 1980's. (Read a New York Times article on my Nepal research.) I have also written about agency, language as a form of social action, constraints on meaning in Nepali women's songfests, Magar ethnicity, and Nepali childbirth practices. I am exploring the possibility of beginning a new ethnographic project among Nepali immigrants in Israel in the future.
I recently finished a new book, entitled, Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, published by Wiley-Blackwell. It sold more than four thousand copies in its first year in print and will be translated into Polish by Jagiellonian University Press in 2014.
I am currently working on a co-authored book, tentatively entitled, Anthropologies of Language: Lessons from the Field, with Alessandro Duranti, Paul Garrett, and Justin Richland. My portion of this book examines leave-taking -- how to say goodbye in, and to, Nepal...or not.
My next single-authored book project will be a volume succinctly summarizing various theoretical approaches that integrate language and agency, especially those that treat language as a form of social action.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, I was "on loan" to the National Science Foundation as a Program Director in the Cultural Anthropology Program, where I convened review panels for dissertation and senior research proposals and initiated a cross-directorate Language Working Group to bring together program directors from across NSF who were interested in language to discuss common interests and formulate plans for the future.
I have also recently been invited to join the editorial board of American Anthropologist.
B.A. in Political Philosophy, Williams College, 1982
M.A. in Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1992
Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1994
Awards, Fellowships, and Grants
Rutgers University Leader in Diversity Award, 2006
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education, 2005
Rutgers University Board of Trustees Award for Scholarly Excellence, 2004
Fellow, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, 2003-2004
Edward Sapir Book Prize Honorable Mention for Invitations to Love, 2002
Rutgers Dialogues Grant, Rutgers University, 2002
Mungo Teaching Award finalist, University of South Carolina, February 2001
Excellence in Teaching Award, Mortar Board Society, University of South Carolina, 2000
Provost’s Teaching Development Grant, University of South Carolina, 1999
Josephine Abney Fellowship for Research in Women’s Studies, University of South Carolina, 1999
Service-Learning Faculty Fellow, University of South Carolina, 1999
Professional Development Award, Professional Women on Campus, University of South Carolina, 1998
College of Liberal Arts Scholarship Support grant, University of South Carolina, 1998
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers, 1996-1997
Mellon Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1993-1994
National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Nepal, 1992-1993
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, Nepal, 1992-1993
Mellon Foundation Candidacy Fellowship, University of Michigan, Summer 1992
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1991-1992
Margaret Wray French Anthropology Scholarship, Nepal, Summer 1990
Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Living Language is a clear and accessible exploration of the prominent theoretical issues in linguistic anthropology and a student-friendly introduction to the study of language in real-life social contexts around the world. Combining classic studies on language in social contexts and cutting-edge, contemporary scholarship, the book provides a unifying synthesis of research in linguistic anthropology and looks towards future research in the field.
Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal. University of Michigan Press. 2001. This ethnography provides a close examination of the dramatic shift away from arranged marriage and capture marriage toward elopement in the Magar village of Junigau, Nepal. In this village, young people are applying their newly acquired literacy skills to love-letter writing, fostering a transition that involves not only a shift in marriage rituals, but also a change in how villagers conceive of their own ability to act and attribute responsibility for events. Awarded Honorable Mention in the Society of Linguistic Anthropology's Edward Sapir Book Prize Competition, 2002.
Read the table of contents of Living Language.
Read the table of contents and other front matter of Invitations to Love.
Read Appendix A and Appendix B, the complete love letter correspondences of two Nepali couples.
Read Gérard Toffin's review of Invitations to Love in the journal L'Homme: Revue française d'anthropologie, July 2006. (Review is in French.)
Read Mark Liechty's review of Invitations to Love in the journal American Ethnologist, Vol.30(2), May 2003.
Read Anita Wilson's review of Invitations to Love in the journal Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Vol.33(4), December 2002. (Not available to all viewers, unfortunately.)
Read Anna Robinson-Pant's review of Invitations to Love in the International Journal of Educational Development, Vol.22(5):556-558, September 2002. (Not available to all viewers, unfortunately.)
Read Yoonhee Kang's review of Invitations to Love in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 14(1):112-113.
Articles and Book Chapters (Many of these articles can be found on academia.edu; contact me if you have difficulty obtaining any of them and would like a copy.)
"Keywords as a Literacy Practice in the History of Anthropological Theory." American Ethnologist 40(1), February 2013. Open access to the online version is available here. You might also want to check out the slide show of word clouds I generated out of the keywords and titles from articles from 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2012.
“Agency and Language.” In Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, and Jürgen Japsers (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics, in loose-leaf and online version, as well as in a bound Highlights volume containing articles on “Society and Language Use,” pp.28-48, 2010.
“Fateful Literacy: New Meanings, Old Ideologies, and Some Unexpected Consequences of Nepali Love Letter Writing.” In Literacies: Global and Local. Mastin Prinsloo and Mike Baynham (eds.), Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 93-116, 2008.
"Literacy, Power, and Agency: Love Letters and Development in Nepal. " Language and Education, 18(4):305-316, 2004. [Link to .pdf version of this article provided with permission of Multilingual Matters.]
"The Magars of Banyan Hill and Junigau: A 'Granddaughter's' Reflections." Himalayan Research Bulletin, 22(1), 2002.
"What's Love Got To Do With It?" Anthropology News, 43(9). December 2002.
""We Were Kings Here Once": Gendered Constructions of Magar Ethnicity in a Speech by Gore Bahadur Khapangi." Himalayan Research Bulletin 21(1):7-10.
"A Traditional Massacre, or a Massacre of Tradition?" Anthropology News 42(8), November 2001.
"Agency." In Duranti, Alessandro (ed.), Key Terms in Language and Culture. London: Blackwell, 2001, 7-10. [Reprint of Journal of Linguistic Anthropology piece.]
"Agency." In special issue, entitled, "Language Matters: Lexicon for the New Millennium," Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9(2), 1999, 9-12.
"True Traces: Love Letters and Social Transformation in Nepal." In Barton, David and Nigel Hall (eds.), Letter Writing as a Social Practice. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Press, 1999, 199-207.
"'A Twisted Rope Binds My Waist: Locating Constraints on Meaning in a Tij Songfest." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Volume 8(1), 1998, 60-86.
"Reading, Writing, and Romance: Literacy, Love Letters, and Agency in a Nepali Village." Texas Linguistic Forum, Volume 39, 1998, 248-258.
Upcoming Conferences and Presentations
I will be attending the following events in 2012 and would be happy to meet with students or colleagues also attending who share similar research interests:
University of Pennsylvania, 24 September 2012. I will be presenting a talk in the Department of Anthropology's colloquium series on the subject of the past, present, and future of the four fields of anthropology. It will be entitled, "Anthropologies of Language: Saying Goodbye in -- and to -- Nepal."
Smithsonian, Department of Anthropology, 11 October 2012, 3:30 p.m. I will be presenting a talk, entitled, "Love Letters and Goodbyes in Nepal: The Case for Linguistic Anthropology," in the Department's colloquium series.
University of Michigan, Department of Anthropology, 24 and 25 October 2012. I will be presenting a talk on grant writing and another on my own research, entitled, "Leave-Taking Interactional Routines and the Process of Saying Goodbye in (and to?) Nepal."
American Anthropological Association Annual Conference, San Francisco, 14 - 18 November 2012. I will be the discussant on a panel, entitled, "Creativity Across Semiotic Borders," scheduled for Thursday, November 15th, from 10:15 - noon, and I will also be participating in a workshop co-sponsored by the American Ethnological Society and the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, entitlted, "Linguistic Anthropology in Ethnography," at noon on Friday, November 16th.
Anth 299 The Anthropology of Literacy
Anth 312 Language and Social Diversity
Anth 317 Method and Analysis in Cultural Anthropology
Anth 506 Research Design and Methods in Cultural Anthropology.
Anth 514 Language as Social Action
This course is now a required core course for CITE graduate students.
Anth 515 Theories of Agency
Society for Linguistic Anthropology, the American Anthropological Association's linguistic anthropology section
Turtle Light Press, a small press founded by my husband, Rick Black
Peace Corps Writer, an organization devoted to the fiction and nonfiction writing of returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Interview on NPR affiliate KPNR's show, "State of Nevada," on love letters and changing marriage practices in Nepal.
Rutgers Sciwomen interview on my research and graduate school experiences -- three excerpts can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=RUsciwomen
Interviewed for a Discovery Channel documentary, entitled, "Royal Inquest," about the massacre of the Nepali royal family, March 2009.
McGann, Mary Anne. Love Across Cultures, Odyssey Magazine, December 2006, pp.11-13.
Beesan, Nick. "Talking with America," Santa Barbara Talk Radio 1340 AM, 35-minute interview about cross-cultural variations and similarities in ideologies of romantic love, 11 February 2007.
Jiba Kumari Rana and Sunita Lamthari look at Invitations to Love: