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Department of Anthropology pres.

The Michigan Anthropology Colloquia Series: "Linguistic Relativity with an Attitude: Navajo place-names and the public sphere"

Anthony K. Webster, Professor, University of Texas at Austin

"This talk reflects on the controversy on the Navajo Nation of changing the name of Kit Carson Drive to the Navajo place name Tséhootsooí. I outline the structure and use of traditional Navajo place names and then show that Navajo place names have had a renaissance in signage for shopping centers and elsewhere on the Navajo Nation. I then detail the controversy over a proposal to change a street name in Fort Defiance. Place names are not neutral, but fully implicated in concerns about who has and does not have the right (and power) to name. In debates about linguistic relativity, questions of the inequalities of language need to be engaged. This, I argue, is linguistic relativity with an attitude--taken out of the free-floating ahistorical itemizable lexical unit and put back--where it has always been--in the lives of people."

The Michigan Anthropology Colloquia Series presents speakers on current topics in the field of anthropology

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