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Last modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007

IU's Richard Bauman receives Sapir Prize

Jan. 9, 2007

Dick Bauman

Richard Bauman

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Richard Bauman, distinguished professor of folklore and chair of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington, has been awarded the 2006 Edward Sapir Book Prize for his co-authored work Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality.

The Sapir Prize is awarded in alternate years by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology to a recent book that makes the most significant contribution to scholarly understanding of language in society.

Bauman and his longtime research collaborator Charles Briggs received the award during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Briggs is the Alan Dundes distinguished professor of folklore and head of the folklore program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Voices of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2003) provides a novel reading of over two centuries of philosophy, political theory, anthropology, folklore and history and argues that new ways of imagining language and representing supposedly pre-modern people -- the poor, laborers, country folk, non-Europeans and women -- made political and scientific revolutions possible. Bauman and Briggs argue that contemporary efforts to make schemes of social inequality based on race, gender, class and nationality seem compelling and legitimate, rely on deeply rooted ideas about language and tradition. Showing how critics of modernity unwittingly reproduce these foundational fictions, they suggest new strategies for challenging the undemocratic influence of these voices of modernity.

Reviewing Voices of Modernity in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Lisa Phillips of the University of Western Ontario wrote, "Bauman and Briggs have written the most fundamental, significant work ever for linguistic anthropologists and probably for all anthropologists with the slightest concern with reflexivity and practice."

In recognizing the book, the Society for Linguistic Anthropology cited the authors' success in "investigating the role of ideologies of language in the shaping of modernity." In doing so, "the book brings linguistic anthropology to the forefront of contemporary debates in the humanities and social sciences."

The Society for Linguistic Anthropology is a section of the American Anthropological Association. Its members focus on the study of language in social, cultural and historical context. Bauman served as its president from 1991 to 1993. The Sapir Prize is named after Edward Sapir (1884-1939), a pioneering anthropologist and linguist who shaped the modern foundations of both of these fields.