Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor and Department Chairperson, Anthropology and Archaeology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Brooklyn College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1999
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, New York University (NYU)
Ideologies of Language Shift in Bergamo, Italy

In Italy, the questione della lingua has always stood for complex notions about language, power, politics, and social identity, often revolving around the standardization of Italian and its dominant position over against other local languages, or 'dialects.' Yet for Italians, how one speaks not only signals where one is from, but also who one is, a view underlined by campanilismo, the Italian belief that those who live within sight of the same bell-tower are united as a social, cultural, and linguistic community. Italians remain committed to local languages and the distinct cultural values and social histories with which these languages are associated, valuing and utilizing them to negotiate their dynamic social landscape. Varieties of language and how they are used are thus potent resources for investigating how actors strategically situate themselves and others in a sociopolitical context where local, regional, and national divisions continue to be fraught with sociocultural values and consequences. I propose an ethnographic and linguistic study in the northern Italian town of Bergamo of how speakers display and shift their different identities through their use of local, regional, and national languages, and how they evaluate and respond to similar activities in others.