Linguistic Anthropology in 2016: Now What?

Shalini Shankar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this review, I extend the ideological and discursive insights on prejudice and racism offered by Jane Hill in her work The Everyday Language of White Racism to consider the potential of linguistic anthropology to address social injustice. In a year marked by the global rise of right-wing politics, 2016 cannot simply be viewed as business as usual, but rather calls for a reevaluation of the potential of linguistic anthropology in light of what it can do now. The essay is thematically organized to focus on the production of value and the reproduction of inequality over a wide range of modalities and research contexts. I begin with the “Metrics of Analysis” to review conceptual frameworks through which ethnographic analysis has been undertaken, such as temporality, scale, multimodality, technology, discourse studies, and others. The sections that follow expand upon these themes across three broad headings. The first, “Participation and Social (In)Justice,” addresses the complex agendas and institutional processes that mediate linguistic struggles for equality in settler colonial and indigenous contexts, political language, racism and social justice, and the affordances and limitations of language for young people. The second, “Global Ethnonationalism,” builds on a language ideology framework to examine the study of minority languages, the language of right-wing religiosity, and the contradictions of national branding. The third explores “Epistemologies of Value” via performativity, embodiment, sound, materiality, ontology, and media. The essay concludes with potential directions for linguistic anthropologists to address the worldwide “alt-” realities that have come into clearer view. [ethnonationalism, language ideology, race, semiotics, social justice].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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