Language and materiality in global capitalism

Shalini Shankar*, Jillian R. Cavanaugh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Language and materiality have long been considered separate phenomena, but an increasing interest in their convergence suggests the productive potential of considering the linguistic and the material within the same analytic frame. Linguistic anthropologists and scholars in allied disciplines have ethnographically investigated how the linguistic and the material are intertwined, focusing on various ways in which this occurs. In order to highlight what is shared across these endeavors, we discuss a range of scholarship, including how words and objects may cosignify meaning and value; practices of embodiment, aesthetics, and style; linguistic objectification and the circulatory possibilities of linguistic forms; and language commodification in global capitalism. We see these efforts as contributing to an emerging field of scholarship we call-quot-language materiality-quot-that captures both the materiality of language as well as how the linguistic and material may interact to create meaning and value. We illustrate how such an approach may address current exigencies of neoliberal projects, global capitalism, and new forms of circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-369
Number of pages15
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


  • circulation
  • commodification
  • globalization
  • ideology
  • neoliberalism
  • political economy
  • semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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