Anthropology and Language Committee

Home About the RAI Committees Anthropology and Language Committee

Building on a 2013/14 seminar series held at the Institute on Anthropology and Language, there has been a crystallisation of interest in the idea that the RAI should have an interest group devoted to matters of anthropology and language. Language crosscuts all anthropological sub-disciplines, yet scholars are dispersed and without formal national links. Our experience with the first set of seminars was that scholars undertaking anthropology-and-language projects are distributed widely across disciplines and institutions, and welcome the opportunity to connect. The broad intention of the Anthropology and Language Committee is to bring these people together and provide a visible focus for anthropology and language in the UK where none such exists at present.

The current Committee members are:
(Click on the highlighted name for more information)

David Parkin (Chair) Emeritus Professor Social Anthropology, All Souls College and School of Anthropology, Oxford. International Consortium on Language Superdiversity (InCoLaS). Interests: multi-modal semiosis; semantic shift and density; cultural key words; political rhetoric; indexicality; signing; cross-over talk; ontological translanguaging; language evolution and creativity. Regions of interest: eastern Africa; China; European cities. Main Languages: English, Swahili, Luo, Giriama, French, German.

Elisabeth Hsu Professor in Anthropology, School of Anthropology, University of Oxford. Interests: linguistic pragmatics, interpretive medical anthropology and semantics; indexicality, phono-aesthetics, physiognomy of language, language and body; histories of language, text critical studies.  Fieldwork undertaken in: China, SW China, East Africa. Languages:  German, English, French, Chinese (modern and literary); Greek, Latin, (Italian).

Alex Pillen Associate Professor in Linguistic Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University College London. Interests: the anthropological study of rhetoric in war-torn societies, evidentiality, indirect communication, the anthropology of sound. Regions of interest: Kurdish communities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and London.  Languages: Flemish, Kurdish (Kurmanci), Spanish, Sinhala, English, French.

David Zeitlyn Professor of Social Anthropology, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography University of Oxford. Interests: sociolinguistics; indexicality; conversation analysis; language and power; politeness; historical linguistics. Regions of interest: Cameroon, Nigeria. Main Languages: English, Mambila, French.

Kirsty Rowan Senior Teaching Fellow in Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies. Interests: Endangered language and living heritage documentation and revitalisation, language ecologies, language and landscape, ethnophysiography, toponymy, phono-symbolism, writing systems. Regions of interest: Sudan, Egypt, Nubia, Nubian diaspora. Languages: Nile Nubian, Meroitic, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic.

Theresia Hofer Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Bristol and Research Affiliate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Interests: sign languages and deaf socialities, embodied signifying movement, gesture and “natural” sign, indexicality, language ideologies, linguistic vitality and endangerment, translanguaging in cities. Regions of interest: Tibet and the Himalayas, Japan, Central Europe. Languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Central Tibetan, literary Tibetan, Tibetan Sign Language, basic British & Austrian Sign Language (BSL & OEGS) and Norwegian; Latin. 

Affiliated Scholars



Past RAI Events in Anthropology and Language