Sociolinguistics Lunch: Becky Schulthies (Rutgers University)

OCT 04, 2019 | 2:00 PM TO 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


7400: Aud/Ling/S-L-H Student Lounge


October 04, 2019: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM




Becky Schulthies (Rutgers University) presents:

Phaticity and the Productivity of Channel Failure

What does it mean to connect as Moroccans when there is widespread feeling of communicative channel failure? Phaticity, or ideologies about mediums of social connection, have relied on infrastructural conduits (channels, communicative modalities), psychological attachments and sociality conventions (Kockelman 2010: 408). The concept has a long genealogy in anthropology but has been arguably undertheorized until recently (Malinowski 1923, Jakobson 1960, Nozawa 2015, Lemon 2017). Both Malinowski and Jakobson saw phatic function as routinized, repetitive, and socially significant yet unremarkable for participants. Importantly, the phatic function involved work, the labor of connecting signers and interpreters (Elyachar 2010:455). How do we think about phatic labor when the mediums of connection become foregrounded as dangerous parasites interfering in sociality (Seres 2007 [1980], Kockelman 2011:413)? Channels lamented as failing in Fez were diverse but significant infrastructures: electronic media, named languages, written or spoken language modalities, ways of practicing Islam, plant resin incense, and Fassis themselves as they erased or made visible the phatic work of channels. How might the foregrounding or backgrounding of communicative channels as failures produce Fassi kinds of connectedness? In this talk I share a few examples over the last decade of unrecognized political projects whereby framings of communicative channel failures have generated surprising forms of relationality.