Language Variation & Change workshop

November 8, 2019 | 3:30PM
Rosenwald 301

Friday, November 8, at 3:30-5pm. A light reception will follow.

The past is upriver: Documenting Wauja (Xingu Arawak) ecologies of language in Brazil
Christopher Ball, University of Notre Dame 

This talk describes the aims and methods of an ongoing multiyear collaborative language documentation project in the Xingu Indigenous Park, Brazil. The project is focused on audiovisual documentation of place names and narratives that speakers of Wauja, an Arawak language, associate with specific places in the riverscape that they inhabit. One goal of the project is to create an interactive digital map of Wauja territory to archive Wauja linguistic narrative data about Wauja places. Another goal is to ethnographically locate discursive acts of naming and narration in their cosmopolitical and historical contexts. Wauja people’s historical movement along the Tamitatoala River is generally upstream (South) and runs in the opposite direction of the narrated flow of mythic protagonists downstream (North) along the same river. Recently, Wauja have made forays upriver and founded a new village near their mythical origin site. Wauja are actively involved in demarcating this site that sits outside of the park and that is unprotected by the state. By emphasizing the ritual and performative aspects of language documentation as a political project, I analyze movement upriver as Wauja movement back in time, in service of Wauja territorial futures.