Árran - Ecology of Indigenous Languages

The key concept of the conference, language ecology, matches contemporary ideas of interaction, relationality, and socialization with the world. It can also be understood as an engagement and interaction with the environment where people use language. Indigenous peoples have often demonstrated that for them languages are a mode of experiencing and relating to the world (also in a very material sense). At the conference we aim to address to what extent indigenous languages do things in relation to a given language ecology in which ideologies, socio-political, and economic forces as well as non-human agencies play a big role.

The panels focus on the morphology of indigenous arts and crafts, indigenous literature, as well as revival of indigenous languages. Keynote speakers of the conference are Prof. Gunvor Guttorm (Sámi Uni­versity of Ap­plied Sci­ences, Nor­way) and Prof. Anthony K. Webster (University of Texas at Austin, USA).

Gunvor Guttorm: The concept duodji, as everyday activity and action in art

Abstract: Intention of this speech is to investigate duodji in the contemporary perspective. On the one hand must duodji be regarded as an activity of the Saami society, and on the other side as a subject in a scientific context. The aim of this speech is to understand duodji of today, by discuissing what position and meaning it has had and has for the Sámi societies. To understand this, some examples that use natural materials in the artistic work are presented. How craftspeople approach the material in their work is perhaps not equal, but this presentation aims to elaborate it from a diverse perspective.

Duodji in this talk will be examined as duodji, and approached from the practices it has in the Sami communites. Duodji, as academic subject is not a new phenomenon, it has historically often been part of anthropological, ethnological, or in art discussion. While duodji has been framed within these disciplines, has duodji practice taken place in many of the sámi societies. Even if it is quite obvious for many, it is worth to mention that duodji has its basis in sámi everyday life, where the creation of duodji is part of it. Practitioners have eventually been affected by the current discussions in duodji, and today we see that we are talking about duodji and can have completely different connotations.

Gunvor Guttorm is Professor in duodji (e.g., Sámi arts and crafts, traditional art, applied art) at the Sámi University College of Applied Sciences in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, Norway. She has long experience teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in duodji, both practically and theoretically. Guttorm has not only written several books and articles on the dynamicity of Sámi art and craft, but also participated in exhibitions in Sápmi and abroad. Her latest book, Duodjáris duojárat : duddjon ealiha duodjedigaštallama : artihkkalčoakkáldat, has shown the connections between duodji, language, Indigenous knowledge, and social relations.

Anthony K. Webster: Learning to be satisfied: Navajo poetics, a chattering chipmunk, and anthropology on an intimate scale

Abstract: This talk begins by focusing in on a brief moment in a larger narrative told by John Watchman in Navajo to Edward Sapir in the late 1920s. First the narrative is placed within its larger narrative context (that of a Coyote story), then the narrative moment is looked at from a variety of perspectives--from an ethnopoetic perspective, from a contextual perspective (ecological and interpersonal), and finally by placing the narrative moment--which focuses on a chattering chipmunk--within a larger Navajo framework of meaning and moral responsibility. As the analysis slowly expands, touching on a variety of Navajo aesthetic and ethical sensibilities, recent work with Navajo poets informs this interpretive framework and its limits. This recognition of limits then leads to a discussion of the responsibility of anthropologists on the kinds of knowledge we acquire and on the limits of such knowledge acquisition. It concludes by arguing for an anthropology on an intimate scale that seeks a mediative role that rejects an extractive view of anthropology and the study of Native American verbal art more broadly.

Anthony K. Webster is Professor of Anthropology, affiliate of the Native American Indigenous Studies Program and associated faculty in Linguistics at the University Texas in Austin, USA. Webster has specialized in Navajo poetry and poetics as well as verbal art more generally. His area of interest comprises linguistic anthropology, especially acoustemology, language change, language contact, aesthetics, and linguistic and social inequalities. In addition to numerous articles, his publications include Explorations in Navajo Poetry and Poetics (UNM Press, 2009), Intimate Grammars: An Ethnography of Navajo Poetry (UofArizona Press, 2015), The Legacy of Dell Hymes: Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality and Voice with Paul Kroskrity (Indiana University Press, 2015) and The Sounds of Navajo Poetry: A Humanities of Speaking (Peter Lang, 2018).