Workshop: Culture, identity, cognition: insights from conceptualization of diasporic place

Event Date/Time: 
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Event Details: 
  • Amelia Tseng, Ph.D (American University, Georgetown University, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage)

Physical space becomes relevant and meaningful as human place” through talk, (Johnstone, 2010), revealing context-dependent and more universal systems of thought and social relations. Shared understandings of place and meaning are drawn from collective and individual experience, with implications for culture, identity, and cognition. Diaspora challenge traditional notions of space as static and geographically bounded, with tension between the continued ideological relevance of notions of liminality, and the ways in which speakers’ language practices, related to their concrete experiences and senses of self, construct dynamic new understandings of the world. These practices give new insight into diversity and commonality in cognition and the human experience.

Depictions of space, time, and experiences using context-embedded structural elements, language codes, and practices are an important means of understanding this topic. Levinson’s (2003) work on frames of cognition demonstrates that the distribution of spatial meaning across form classes and typologies reveals universal and culturally-specific aspects of cognition. Schiffrin (2009) traces the emergence of cultural chronotopes, or “nexuses of time, space, and identity” through analysis of different structural and discourse elements in interaction. Sicoli (2016) examines the multilingual processes by which speakers not only indicate given place referents, but construct the social landscape and build conceptual common ground; relatedly, De Fina (2003) identified spatial and temporal disorientation as an important part of migrant narratives of border crossing. Tseng (2015; under review) demonstrates that place as identity referents varies cross-generationally, along with language proficiency, and examines the construction of local place as part of making the host-country home in later generations.

This workshop brings together innovative and well-known scholars working on diasporic place from a variety of perspectives to share insights and raise questions for new directions in the field. This perspective is timely and important as the relationships between language and identity, culture, and cognition are often studied independently, but the cross-pollination of implications between these areas is less well-known. To my knowledge, this will be the first workshop to explore these concepts together in context of different world diaspora, with leading scholars investigating topics such as place, race, and time in Korean social media, differences in colonial-period Indo-European and African language diaspora, and the interrelation of language and place identity in emergent U.S. Latino identities.