Final Paper (Fall 2017)

Due: Preliminary Transcription Analysis: Friday, Nov 17, 5 pm, Word Doc uploaded to Moodle

Paper: Monday, Dec 11, 5 pm, Word Doc uploaded to Moodle

Length and Format: No more than 10-12 pages, double-spaced, 1 inch margins all around, 12 point fonts. Please spellcheck. They should be well-organized, with a clear thesis or argument that is 1) articulated in the first or second paragraphs, 2) supported by evidence from readings, and 3) reconsidered and fleshed out in a conclusion.

Evaluation: I will evaluate and respond to papers based on (in order of priority):

  • Degree to which you respond to the assignment and incorporate ideas and issues from class materials in your discussion;
  • Extent to which you demonstrate clear understanding of basic terms presented in the course;
  • the creativity and originality of your ideas
  • The clarity of your organization and writing

Topic: The Ethnography of Performativity

Theory without method is elitist metalanguage.

--She-Rah, Great and Wise Anthro Ancestress

This semester we have explored a wide range of theories and debates about the relationships among language, meaning and social action. This paper is a culminating project that addresses the methodological implications of this line of inquiry for anthropological analysis. If we are to take all meaning and action as emergent and potentially contested in unequal social situations, then we also have to confront the risks and exigencies of ethnographic practice by us relatively advantaged analysts.

Thus there are three main parts to this assignment:

1) You need to draw on your knowledge of theory from the course to critique (or support, or support aspects of) an Austinian or Searlean approach to performativity from a contemporary anthropological perspective, and in this, you should address (but not necessarily exclusively) theories on intersubjectivity and power from the last half of the course.

2) You will do this in/through an analysis of a micro performance/interaction that you place in larger sociopolitical contexts.

-You have the option to do this filmically, by examining a documentary film from the course database, or by using original ethnographic data you collect by audio or video.

-If you choose to analyze a pre-filmed event, you can do the same or a different documentary film you did for midterm, but if you want do the same film, you must analyze a different interaction/event in the film.

-If you choose to analyze a pre-filmed event, then your analysis should explicitly address the politics of representation implied in the filmic eye/presence of camera crews, etc.

-In this final paper then, you will need to do some research on the larger sociopolitical contexts relevant to understanding the dynamics of the interaction at hand.

3) As part of your analysis, you must produce a detailed transcription of the relevant performative features of the event (i.e., not just the texts of utterances!) and any other corroborating evidence, and include that complete transcript with your final paper as an appendix.

-Your essay should include excerpts from the transcript as data/evidence for your arguments. Your transcript should thus have some sort of line-numbering system, so that excerpts can be easily included in the body of your paper.

-For help with transcription methods, consult the Duranti overview (see me), or use the Gumperz and Berenz system (available on ereserve).

-You can modify that Gumperz and Berenz system if you choose, but all transcripts should include a transcription key and a brief paragraph explaining your choice of diacritics.

-A preliminary transcription analysis will be due via Moodle Nov 18, 5 pm. It should be a full transcription of your chosen event, along with some preliminary notes (1 page) about what dynamics of meaning and social action you see going on there (footing and topic shifts, instances of different types of signs, poetics, allusions to cultural or genre types, forms of 'dialogism', embedding, etc.).