Teruko Vida Mitsuhara

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9241

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Mitsuhara, Teruko Vida, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'Multilingual Childhoods in Mayapur, West Bengal: Peer Group Socialization of Bengali and Immigrant Children,' supervised by Dr. Elinor Ochs

Preliminary abstract: The proposed project investigates children’s multilingual language practices and ideologies in Mayapur, West Bengal, India. In this newly formed transnational religious village, children of diverse national, ethnic, and class backgrounds maintain their heritage languages while learning several others. Mayapur is the home to practitioners of Gaudiya Vaishnavism from Asia, the Americas, and Europe, who have come here to build their spiritual homeland and temple for Krishna together with local Bengali devotees. Their children interact frequently across linguistic and cultural boundaries and develop multilingual competencies in languages such as Bengali, English, Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, and Sanskrit. Through ethnographic observation of peer group interactions in the neighborhood, temple, school, and home, and interviews with parents, teachers, and community leaders, this project examines how circular migration and language contact mediated by religious and linguistic ideologies affect children’s language practices and competencies. It asks what factors contribute to informal language learning of several languages and why the children do not shift towards a common lingua franca. Ultimately, the proposed study addresses a broader question of how multilingualism is encouraged and achieved while developing a sense of community. It aims to broaden anthropological understandings of the relation between a religious community and a speech community, looking at how a religious ideology can forge common ground across diverse racial, ethnic, and class, immigrant and resident populations in the Global South.