Grant TypeHunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institutional AffiliationNew Mexico, Albuquerque, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10185
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleShapero, Joshua (New Mexico, Albuquerque, U. of) "The Ground Beneath Our Words: Speaking and Living with Places in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca Mountains"
Linguistic anthropology has challenged the universalist assumption that language is a part of nature by showing how it is embedded in cultural contexts. But what is the status of claims that language is fundamentally natural or cultural if the humans that use language do not universally recognize a nature-culture distinction? This question yields a more specific one: how is language variably implicated in human-nonhuman interactions? I approach this question by examining the distinct ways that habitual, everyday communicative practices become intertwined with the landscape of the Cordillera Blanca, in the central Peruvian Andes. I am currently developing a book on this topic that describes how everyday conversation in the region’s indigenous language—Ancash Quechua—is anchored along social, linguistic, and cognitive lines to speakers’ shared knowledge of and orientation to the landscape. The book contextualizes these findings within an environmental history of the region, showing how the formation of the Huascaran National Park’s unprecedented restriction of access to herders resonates not only in economic and social life, but also destabilizes the grounds for communication in the region’s native language. The book will address the relative silence of linguistic anthropology on pressing environmental concerns, reorient theoretical concerns with the nature of language, and convey the relevance of language to environmental historians, activists and policy-makers.