Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Primary Theme: Exchange
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
This panel brings together papers that interrogate how value is constructed as semiotic objects move through the world (Urban 2001). We take as our starting point a key Saussurean (1959) insight: that languages are systems of difference, and any given value only gains meaning in relation to others. But, which others? Recognizing that there is always more than one possible system of metasemiotic regimentation at play, this panel focuses on how values are created in translation between different metasemiotic systems. In this way, we situate our analyses within a tradition of anthropological attention to value making as a semiotic process (Agha 2011; Cavanaugh and Shankar 2014; Keane 1994, 2003; Kockleman 2006; Manning 2012; Munn 1986; Nakassis 2012; Sahlins 1976; Weiner 1985, 1994). Through a semiotic approach to value, we are able to consider the performative stakes of value-making, the scales at which exchanges and their effects occur, as well as the durability or spatio-temporality of value. We ask what happens when competing or incongruous value systems come up against one another? How are value systems contested, changed or reified over time and space? And how do these emergent values affect their producers and those that oppose them?
Looking at a range of ethnographic contexts including Senegalese wrestling matches, France’s 2016 regional reform, Indigenous language and music programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and cultural preservation efforts in Hopiland, we pay specific attention to metasemiotic processes of value making and remaking. We examine how our interlocutors are preoccupied with controlling the terms by which value is set and how it is translated when in movement between different contexts, modalities, and sites. This nexus, where metasemiotic systems meet, is a contentious site of meaning making, ripe for both domination and opportunity. We explore the tension between fixity and transformation in the attempt to impose, create or refuse systems of meaning. We also consider the implications of these processes for larger questions of identity formation, as the actors involved represent themselves and/or are represented by others across varying scales and to varying publics.