Anth Colloquia: Michael Shepard

The Substance of Self-Determination:” Language, Culture, Archives and Sovereignty


Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134
11:30 – 1:00 pm
Michael Shepard – Anthropology Ph.D. candidate, UBC
Everyday communication in Native languages continues to see decline around the world, even given efforts to reverse these processes. As language shift progresses there is heightened importance for documentation of these languages and the oral histories and unique cultural information they contain. Archives are commonly used to store these resources, but the design and functionality of archives often fails to address language community interests in protecting their capacity for self-determination and other core cultural beliefs. I find that large international archive options lack sufficient controls to maintain culturally based sharing protocol, enable contextualization of resources, provide opportunities for local collaboration and support educational dissemination. In this dissertation I critically evaluate the capacity of endangered language archives to affirm cultural beliefs and explore the impacts for maintenance of sovereignty and demonstration of indigeneity. I utilize identification of language ideologies as a lens to determine the cultural compatibility of archives and their practices. I present research with people from Indigenous communities in Washington State, Alaska and California. In addition, I describe interviews with managers and directors from major international language archives and small community based ones.