Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Indiana University / Bloomington

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Michigan
Reading Publics: Language and Local Media in Southeastern Siberia

Mass media have long been theorized as instrumental in fostering civil society and the 'free' exchange necessary for democracy. In post-socialist contexts in particular, developing a 'free press' has been treated as one of the primary means by which to restore a healthy public sphere. Yet in practice, a variety of cultural and institutional frameworks pattern the movement of discourses through mass media, calling into question the 'freedom' of exchange. What kinds of publics are and are not possible through local media? How exactly do discourses move into, out of, and through the media to affect everyday social practices? This research project will investigate the possible role of media in creating and sustaining minority language publics in post-Soviet Russia. Specifically, it will examine minority-language newspapers as a particular kind of knowledge institution that might instantiate, subvert, or create ideologies about language use in the larger community. Over the past sixteen years, some of the most central and impassioned struggles in post-Soviet society have concerned minority languages and the publics that they mark or create. To follow these struggles as they unfold in contemporary and historical context, I am focusing on the Lake Baikal region of Siberia, where generations of speakers have been shifting to Russian from a native Mongolic language, Buryat. The study will consist of archival, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic research on local media production and consumption in the Republic of Buryatia. Based in the capital, Ulan-Ude, I will investigate the relationship between language in the newsroom of a Buryat-language newspaper and the everyday language of ordinary speakers. By examining the linguistic decisions of media personnel and tracking media circulations in the wider speech community, I hope to discover the specific connections between locally produced and consumed mass media and the everyday linguistic practices of their intended audiences.