Judith T. Irvine

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Edward Sapir Collegiate Professor, Anthropology

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Contact Information:
Major Projects:
  • Ongoing archival and library research on the history of African linguistics (began in 1993). Recent projects: -Colonizing African languages: Ideologies of language, politics of empire (2005-06, U-M Humanities Award). -Ideologies of language in sub-Saharan Africa (2005-06, Guggenheim).
  • Ongoing fieldwork-based research in Senegal on language repertoires, linguistic practices, and social hierarchy in a rural Wolof community (throughout 1970s). Return visit as keynote speaker in an international conference, "Communication et société chez les Wolof," at Université Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal (2006, Volkswagen Foundation).
  • Research on language repertoires, attitudes, and migration trajectories among Senegalese migrants in southeast Michigan (2004-07, U-M Center for Language, Society, and Thought).
  • Other projects have included research on the linguistic expression of deference, from grammatical honorifics to praise-poetry, in African languages (Wolof, SeTswana, Zulu/Xhosa, ChiBemba, and others), and historical research on the investigation of African languages in the period of European imperial expansion and the establishment of colonial regimes. The historical project includes questions about “ethnogenesis” and the relationships between languages and populations, variously delimited how languages were identified, described, and (in some cases) “reduced to writing” and how linguistic investigations intersected with the colonial enterprise.
  • Senegal
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Anthropology