Retrospective Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for Psychological Anthropology
Cosponsored by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Primary Theme: Ethics
Over the course of her career, Elinor Ochs—a linguistic anthropologist by training—has continually crossed sub-disciplinary boundaries. Along the way, Dr. Ochs has made explicit calls for anthropologists to stretch their thinking outside the theoretical and methodological bounds of their respective fields. In her landmark essay, “Experiencing Language” (2012), she calls upon psychological anthropologists to honor the “manifold ways in which the temporal unfolding of language in and across situations is implicated in moment-to-moment thinking, feeling, and being in the world.” Dr. Ochs has provided a model of this kind of scholarship many times over. Her close engagement with the operation of emotion, morality, temporality and narrative structures in linguistic practice has contributed new methodologies to Psychological and Medical Anthropologists who seek a more intimate and active understanding of lived experience.
Upon her retirement and in the spirit of Dr. Ochs’s career-long commitment to cross-generational and collaborative thinking, this panel brings together her students and colleagues to respond to her work. In doing so, the papers on this panel showcase how her work challenges us to consider what it means to be “resistant,” “resilient,” and “adaptive,” anthropologists, pushing us to think across subfields and to make our imaginations flexible enough to truly break new ground.
The panelists’ papers converge in their mobilization of certain central themes in Dr. Ochs’s work to explore a diversity of ethnographic and theoretical questions. Key among these central themes is a focus on interaction: what Zigon, in his abstract, calls the “between.” The authors examine interaction not merely as a locus of communication, but as the primary site in which our shared world is created. Here interaction operates as far more than “mere” talk. Rather interaction is, as Pritzker puts it in her abstract, a “languaging-emotioning-bodying,” arising within a matrix of lived experience with others. Interaction, for the papers on this panel, is a space of world and self creation. Furthermore, in line with this attention to the everyday creation of worlds and selves, many of the authors engage in an exploration of the ethical as a crucial part of this self and world building. From ethical dilemmas faced by a nurse at a psychiatric ER in Los Angeles, to elder family care in Vietnam, to an “everyday” conversation between an African-American mother and her hair stylist, these papers powerfully show how actors engage with—and indeed create—ethical life through interaction. In both content and organization, the panel demonstrates how multiple forms of “bridging” modeled in Dr. Ochs’s work--bridging of subfields, generations, disciplines, methods, theories--can bring us new anthropological insights and challenge old lines of thinking.