Archive for Linguistic Anthropology

Episode 18 Language, Time, and the Anthropology of Arrival with Dr. David Sutton

Dr. David Sutton has written about the anthropology of movies before, but the film Arrival, he says, is something special. Arrival debuted in 2016, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who was tasked with making first contact with an alien species. Like an anthropologist in a foreign culture, she has to orient herself to an entirely different way of being and communicating. The film is science fiction, but draws in sociolinguistic theory and cultural concepts of time, all while it illustrates the emotional rushes and pitfalls of trying to understand someone who doesn’t share your perceptions of how the world works

Most successful movies and television shows are popular because they connect with some cultural elements in their audiences, which makes them rich material for anthropologists striving to understand how communities think about everything from family to gift-giving to social class. But Arrival goes further, not only representing cultural elements but also showing what many cultural and linguistic anthropologists actually do.

In this episode, Dr. Sutton breaks down why fictional films and television shows can be important in revealing implicit cultural models, and discusses what Arrival tells us about language, time, and anthropology.

*WARNING: Spoilers abound in this episode, so listeners beware!*

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Episode 1 Anthropology Beyond Indiana Jones with Dr. Angela Jenks

Dr. Angela Jenks, Asst. Teaching Professor at UC Irvine (photo courtesy of Angela Jenks)

From Indiana Jones to Bones to that graduate student kidnapped by pirates on Archer, there are many different representations of anthropology in pop culture, but what do real anthropologists do?

Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Which means that anthropologists study pretty much everything, including politics, art, medicine, religion, and our relationship with the environment. Some anthropologists take us into communities that are intensely different—ones we may not even know exist—and help us understand them from the inside. Other anthropologists use those same methods to get us to question the familiar—what feels normal to us, and why doesn’t it feel the same way to others?

In this first episode of The Anthropologist on the Street podcast, I have invited Dr. Angela Jenks to explain what anthropology is and why it is important. Dr. Jenks is an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, a recipient of an award for excellence in teaching, and the first Teaching “Scholar-in-Residence” for the prestigious journal Cultural Anthropology. She talks to us about humanity, culture, and the paradox of being an American and an anthropologist, where we collectively share a culture of individuality.
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