413A Silsby Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
christopher.ball at dartmouth.edu
I am a linguistic anthropologist with theoretical specialization in discourse and interaction, cultural symbolism, and the politics of communication. I have a BA in Linguistics from the University of California at Santa Barbara and I completed the PhD with distinction in the Joint Degree Program of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Chicago in 2007. My dissertation research involved Fulbright-Hays funded fieldwork with the Wauja people, a group of roughly 350 speakers of an Arawak language from the Upper Xingu of Brazil.
The main focus of my scholarship is interaction, ritual, and exchange in Lowland South American indigenous societies. I also examine the discursive politics that mediate relationships between indigenous people and non-indigenous others. One central question to my research is how Wauja people take interactional tactics derived from the Upper Xinguan regional system of ritual exchange to engage in evolving and expanding social relations, and how this practice may subsequently lead to cultural transformations. I teach and write in the areas of language in culture, the political economy of language in society, ritual performance, possession and exchange, Amazonian development, discourse and power, dialect and multilingualism, grammatical categories and mind, the anthropology of space and place, indigeneity, and language shift.
My current book project “Out of the Park,” is an ethnographic account of a spatial economy of difference. It follows the small-scale Wauja society’s travels from the confines of Brazil’s multilingual Xingu Indigenous Park outwards to national and global scales. The book explores why Amazonians seek social relationships with powerful others, and details how Wauja go about forging these relationships. I use transcription and analysis of interactional and ritual data to show how Wauja engage spirits and ancestors at home, indigenous neighbors in ritual exchange, development agents in meetings at Park borders, and non-indigenous audiences in performance of culture show abroad. I show that shared principles of exchange are tied to expectations about how people should speak, and that together these are crucial to the collaborative construction of social relationships.
I also have research interests in Japan. I am in the initial stages of a new ethnographic study of language and place in the rural Kunisaki peninsula, best known for its historical role in the foundation of Japan’s unique synthesis of Buddhism, Shinto, and folk religion. My project investigates how current inhabitants seek to reinscribe this landscape with meaning through social practice in the face of demographic shift brought about by rural flight that is emptying the countryside. As the new localization seeks to bring outsiders in, local dialect can be an index of rural backwardness, but it is also the most “authentic” measure of who is really local. I investigate language use in Kunisaki at the intersection of religious historicity, the construction of place, ritual, and secular tourism. The project contributes to the cultural anthropological study of community building in rural Japan, and it uniquely problematizes the role of dialect in local revitalization. I conducted research in this new field site in 2008 and 2010.
Last Updated: 7/21/11