In this seminar, I will address the ways in which Venezuelans in Chile produce a sense of cultural intimacy (Herzfeld 1997) through ways of speaking, writing and communicating with other Venezuelans. I argue that this intimate grammar (Webster 2015) allows Venezuelans to develop a diasporic subjectivity and navigate their detachment from their country of origin. This seminar presentation will discuss interviews and personal narratives in which Venezuelans engage in meta-pragmatic and meta-cultural representations of their displacement, and the particular linguistic and semiotic forms that make possible for them to take an affective stance towards Chile, Immigration and the country they have left behind.
Juan L. Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of anthropology at Queens College, CUNY. His expertise is on semiotic and linguistic ideologies, specifically how these are mobilized to produce public political life in the process of state formation and the formation of diasporic identities. He has been interested in how material circumstances affect the way in which politicians, and the voters who support them, conceive of the linguistic practices and performances that sustain their relationship. His work relies on a discourse-centered approach to language and culture taking instances of language use, and performative practices in context, as the starting point of his ethnographic research. He combines this approach with an interest in practices of translation and semiotic transduction to understand how indigenous languages in Venezuela are translated into Spanish and how Spanish have been translated into Warao, an indigenous language of the Orinoco Delta in eastern Venezuela. He takes these translation practices as part of a more general process of transduction of political speech into political influence through the distribution of state resources. His book, Language and Revolutionary Magic in the Orinoco Delta (Bloomsbury Academic Press), explores the role of translation in the process of transforming oil revenue into political influence arguing that these are interconnected processes that help us understand the place of Warao speakers in the context of the Venezuelan public political sphere. Over the last year he started a new research project in collaboration with Dr. Miki Makihara, funded by CUNY’s PSC-Research Foundation and a Research Enhancement Grant from Queens College, in which he explores linguistic intimacy in the Venezuelan diaspora both in Chile and the U.S. In this new project He will conduct a multi-site ethnographic investigation about the ways in which the largest migratory phenomenon in the hemisphere have produced new linguistic and semiotic practices. There are now over 5 million Venezuelans migrants and refugees in different Latin American countries and the United States. The Venezuelan diaspora in Chile is a very new phenomenon, and the linguistic ideologies that sustain this diasporic identity are being drawn in the context of the worst economic and political crisis in the history of Venezuela, and a profound political crisis in Chile.
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