Session Summary

Direct link:

2-112 - Ethical Blindspots in Ethnographic and Developmental Approaches to the Language Gap Debate

Fri, March 22, 1:00 to 2:30pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 310

Session Type: Invited Address

Integrative Statement

As an anthropologist of communication in childhood, I argue that the Language Gap debate is mired in ethical blind spots across ethnographic and developmental approaches. These blind spots fuel disciplinary impasses to productive dialogue regarding global-local moral economies of talk and knowledge that infuse the lives of young children. All scholars in this debate fervently commit to reduction of economic inequality. Yet, they divide in ethical investments in human and cultural rights, universal and situated truths, objective and subjective knowledge, and neoliberal advocacy of the individual and social capitalist advocacy of government to achieve economic parity. Ethical fault lines blind scholars to how much they need one another’s invaluable expertise. Significantly, in light of postcolonialism, global uprisings, and critical social science since the 1960s, scholars for and against Language Gap interventions have lost sight of the ethical problematics of their own privileged positionality in representing what is best for

Sub Unit




Elinor Ochs is Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. Drawing upon fieldwork in Madagascar, Samoa, Italy and the US, she documents durative and fluid dispositions and practices undergirding becoming competent speakers and actors across the lifespan, settings, and communities. Her research on language socialization, narrative, and emotion bridges linguistic, psychological, and medical anthropology. Ochs directed the UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families, which analyzed how social class configures communication, childcare, health, commensality, leisure, work, and consumerism. Selected honors include American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member, Guggenheim Fellow, MacArthur Fellow, Honorary Doctorate Linkoping University (Sweden), President of Society for Linguistic Anthropology, and President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics. Selected books include The Handbook of Language Socialization (2011), Life at Home in the 21st Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors (2012), and Fast Forward Family: Home, Work, and Relationships in Middle Class America (2013).