Language and culture in the Middle East; Modern Hebrew language and linguistics; Israeli society.
I am interested in emotion, identity, and social power. My approach to these issues is through discourse, linking quantitative sociolinguistics with interpretive ethnography to look at how social structures are constituted, reinforced, and opposed in ever yday communicative practices. Geographically I am most drawn to the complex negotiations over hybrid symbols characteristic of linguistic and social 'borderlands'.
I got into anthropology - and linguistic anthropology in particular - when my family spent a year in Vienna, Austria. I was 13 years old then: a committed monolingual, most upset to be missing a season of American sports. While there, however, I became fascinated with languages, and with how people use language. I saw firsthand, for example, how 'native Austrians' used language style to make (then) Yugoslavian guest-workers feel their foreign-ness in Vienna. When I returned home, I suddenly saw the same sorts of identity marking through linguistic variation in my Cleveland high school, where white and black students jointly constructed maximally separate linguistic identities.
Most of my research has been done in Israel, where I lived for two years interviewing Jewish and Palestinian Israelis, and looking at how their patterns of language-use transformed Israeli categories of identity. I was particularly drawn to intonation in Hebrew, and the ways in which Mizrahi (Jewish) and Palestinian (Arab) groups used non-standard pitch patterns to resist hegemonic inscriptions of affect onto subaltern identities, while actively constructing hybrid symbolic forms that constituted oppos itional identities.
I hope to return to the Middle East soon to study language and identity in the emerging Palestinian state. I am also working on developing ways to include intonation in the description of social dialects more generally, and I maintain research interests in the application of sociolinguistic research to American schooling.
- 2004. Words and Stones: Language and the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Studies in Anthropological Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 1997. "Intonation, Affect, and Subaltern Dialects." Texas Linguistic Forum 36:46-57.
- 1995. "Constructing Affective Responses to ('Nationalistic') Violence in Israel." Political and Legal Anthropology Review 18(2):105-117.
Before coming to the University of Virginia I taught briefly at the University of New Mexico and at Kansas University.
I teach three courses relevant to Middle Eastern Studies:
- Language and Culture in the Middle East (Anth / MESA 3470 & 7470)
- Reflections of Exile: Jewish Languages and their Communities (Anth / MESA 2470)
- Anthropology of the Middle East
In addition, I teach a number of courses that are primarily linguistic and anthropological, including:
- Language and Identity (Anth 5470)
- Speech Play and Verbal Art (Anth 5490)
- Language and Emotion
- Language and Cinema