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Contested Mobilities: On the Politics and Ethnopoetics of Circulation

Charles L. Briggs
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 50, No. 1-3, Special Triple Issue: Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice: The Legacy of Dell Hymes (January/December 2013), pp. 285-299
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/jfolkrese.50.1-3.285
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Page Count: 16
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Contested Mobilities: On the Politics and Ethnopoetics of Circulation
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Abstract This article argues that ethnopoetics can make important contributions to current work in anthropology, science-technology-society studies, and other disciplines on the mobility and circulation of cultural forms. Scholars have suggested that mobility is not an intrinsic property of words, images, technologies, etc.; it rather takes particular types of interventions to make phenomena seem intrinsically mobile. The articles in this special issue by Gerald L. Carr and Barbra Meek, Sean Patrick O'Neill, and David W. Samuels provide ethnographic challenges to dominant models of circulation, as promoted by anthropologists, missionaries, and educators. They document how Native American translators, language teachers, and Christian converts scrutinize models that, as O'Neill and Samuels point out, have long histories. In doing so, they engage in practices that disrupt hegemonic models, propose alternatives, and question the foundational premise that promoting the circulation of cultural and linguistic forms is always a moral good, one that confers positive—if not superior—ethical standing on anthropologists, linguists, missionaries, and educators.

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