Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Anthropology

Supervisor

Tania Granadillo

Abstract

This dissertation examines the practices surrounding advocacy for Indigenous language revitalization and maintenance in order to better understand the changing nature of of ethnolinguistic identity and the politics of culture in the Brazilian Amazon. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Amazonas, it specifically considers the complex challenges created for language revitalization activism among urban and diasporic Indigenous populations. São Gabriel is a small, highly multilingual city, in which speakers of 21 languages from 5 language families live and come into contact with one another, and in which individuals commonly speak multiple Indigenous languages. Although Indigenous people are numerically dominant within the population, they continue to experience high levels of social marginalization and stigmatization of their cultural identities and practices. Efforts to revitalize Indigenous languages are therefore highly complex political processes.

This dissertation considers the ways in which the changing context of state policy, the influence of outside actors (including academic linguists and anthropologists), and the structures of the Indigenous political movement intersect to shape both the linguistic and social outcomes of language revitalization efforts. I analyze the discourses, policies, and practices surrounding Indigenous language use and promotion in the city of São Gabriel in order to engage in the process of language ideological clarification. By exposing the language ideological frames in which these sociolinguistic practices are embedded, my research demonstrates that the challenges to implementing language revitalization efforts in the urban centre are not merely pragmatic, but rather are rooted in deeply-held beliefs about the role that Indigenous languages should play in defining identity and shaping social relationships. These ideologies perpetuate an indexical relationship between Indigeneity and rurality, and despite efforts to valorize and promote Indigenous languages in the urban area, support the ongoing shift towards Portuguese monolingualism. This research demonstrates the need to reconsider understandings of ethnolinguistic identity in relation to multilingualism and language revitalization planning, as well as to re-evaluate approaches to language revitalization that fail to consider the diverse needs of urban and diasporic people.


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