The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas

Call for papers: From Scroll to Scrolling: Shifting cultures of language and identity

Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs

5th Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference


Call for Papers


From Scroll to Scrolling: Shifting cultures of language and identity


March 9-11, 2017

Middlebury College, Vermont, USA

Language and identity are inseparable. Changes in writing technology, on the one hand, and in

power dynamics, on the other, shape communities and individual identities. This conference

examines two intertwined themes: One, the impact of the production and circulation of texts,

over time and place, on practices of writing, reading, and the transmission of knowledge. Two,

the way in which power imbalances affect language use, community, and identity. As writing

technologies emerge, decisions are made regarding what knowledge gets preserved and

(re)produced or forgotten and lost. Changes in technologies of writing and access to their

control have profound effects on cultural survival and social change.

The conference will address questions such as

  • How are individual and cultural identities linked to the materiality of a given language

and its writing system (e.g., the painterly quality of Chinese ideographs; Helvetica

typeface)? Are there universal elements of written technology that transcend

particulars? Is digital technology—the ability to type any language on a single

keyboard—flattening or erasing the materiality of individual languages?

  • How have the physical aspects of the production and circulation of texts (e.g. carvings,

scroll, codex, manuscript, screen) shaped knowledge production over time? How have

changes in ways of writing and reading lent new meanings to ‘old’ texts, and new

reading experiences?

  • How does the study of ancient technologies of writing and reading—epigraphy,

scholarship of Chinese bone script—inform contemporary understandings of cultural

community? Does it suggest essential continuities? Or does it suggest a rupture with

the past in which technology has fundamentally changed the nature of communication?

  • How have national literatures and cultures negotiated the distance between their oral

and written languages through time? How have uses of technologies of writing created

or reflected this distance?

  • How have religious communities negotiated changes in technologies of writing and what

role have sacred languages played in the construction of shared religious identities

across linguistically diverse communities?

Presenters may want to address the following themes:

  • Language and identity
  • Materiality of language
  • Sacred language
  • Orality, literacy, and new media
  • Poetics, textuality, politics
  • Censorship and language policies: threatened and disappearing languages
  • Technologies of writing—multiplicity, diversity and change
  • Technology, hybridity, authorship

We invite papers that address these issues from a range of disciplinary perspectives as they

pertain to different historical periods and geographical locations.

Those interested in presenting at the conference should send an abstract (no more than 250

words) and their curriculum vitae by October 1, 2016, to the organizers below. The selection

process is competitive.

Funds are available to support travel and lodging of all participants.


Tamar Mayer, Professor of Geography and Director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs,

Steve Snyder, Professor of Japanese Studies and Dean of Language Schools,

Juana Gamero de Coca, Associate Professor of Spanish,

Marybeth Nevins, Associate Professor of Anthropology,

Updated: September 4, 2016 — 11:40 am

The Author


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