fdb – Forschungsdatenbank der Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)


Rita Vallentin: Somos todos de aquí - 'We all are from here': Place as a co-constructed category qualifier in identification practices

Lecturer Rita Vallentin
Conference 15th International Pragmatics Conference, Belfast, Nordirland.
Place Belfast / Nordirland
Year 2017


Place as a co-constructed category in identification practices The aim of this presentation is the analysis of place as the main identification category for a rural community in the highlands of Guatemala. The linguistic data chosen shows categorical differences in the "frame(s) of reference" (Anchimbe/Janney 2001: 1451) and practices concerning identification between community members and 'outsiders' with a specific official status. The corpus was collected during 2009 and 2011 in a remote Guatemalan village with approximately 350 inhabitants in four months of ethnographic research. It combines 32 semi-structured interviews focusing on narratives of transformation within the community, six narratives about the story for visiting tourists and approximately 60 hours of community meetings and quotidian conversation between inhabitants. For this presentation, I want to focus on a training for the women of the community about female empowerment offered by a young representative of the Guatemalan state. The official collects data with a prefigured questionnaire, which the women discuss and challenge in the extract. The categories used by the state's representative do not match the “everyday ethnicity” (Brubaker 2002, 2006) and are rendered problematic by the community members. Based on an ethnographically informed conversation analysis (Bucholtz & Hall 2008; Deppermann 2000), on a content-related level, it will be shown how local practices of identification "clash" with categories of identification that are introduced to the community from the outside by a state representative. On the level of conversation analysis, we will see which linguistic strategies are used by the community members and the representative of the "official categories" to propose, negotiate and protect their prevalent referential category system. Whereas the state's representative argues within categories of indigenousness or nonindigenousness, the community women co-construct place with the means of deictical expressions like aquí ('here') as their main category of social identification linked to 'work' (trabajo), 'land' (tierra) and 'struggle' (lucha) (Vallentin 2012). The findings of this specific interaction will be backed up by other data sources, as personal and official narratives within the same community show that group affiliation (“Zuordnung”, Hausendorf 2000) is linguistically expressed largely in terms of place and a specific narrative of the place, not, as could be expected, in terms of ethnic attributes, religion, or the usage of a specific indigenous language. From a postcolonial pragmatic perspective it is interesting how the women linguistically circumvent the eagerness of the state official and how they stick to their own system especially in terms of co-constructing their responses (Günthner 2013).


Division ("Fakultät") Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Lehrstuhl Professur für Sprachgebrauch und Sprachvergleich