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Woolard, Kathryn

Woolard, Kathryn

Kathryn Woolard, born in Wellsville, New York (USA), in 1950. Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego.

Fellow (1 September 2013 – 30 June 2014)


Research Question

What makes a language authoritative in community members’ eyes and ears, allowing institutions to assume legitimacy and speakers to command an audience, and what challenges are there to traditional linguistic authority in the late modern period?

Project Description

This project explores two ideological conceptualizations of language that have long underpinned linguistic authority in western societies. One stresses authenticity, which is attributed principally to minority languages, and the other values anonymity, a universalistic quality attributed to dominant languages. The relationship of these two ideologies is being re-organized in the late modern period, and both are now under challenge. I analyse these changes through an ethnographic study of the national linguistic project of contemporary Catalonia after thirty years of political autonomy within Spain. This research shows an ongoing shift in the contest between Catalan and Spanish, away from concerns about authenticity and toward claims for anonymity and cosmopolitanism in domains from electoral politics and mass media to teenagers’ social cliques.

Selected Publications

1) 1989 Double Talk: Bilingualism and the Politics of Ethnicity in Catalonia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

2) 1998 Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory (ed., with B. Schieffelin & P. Kroskrity). New York: Oxford University Press.

3) 2013 “Catalan in the 21st century: Romantic publics and cosmopolitan communities” (with S. Frekko). Intl. J. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 16 (2): 129-137.