Center for Humanities and Information hosts webinar on Indigenous languages

November 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In recognition of National Native American Heritage Month, the Center for Humanities & Information at Penn State invites the University community for the two-day webinar “Language Lives in Unexpected Places,” a discussion of Indigenous language revitalization, information systems and communicative technologies. The webinar will be held 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Nov. 17-18.

Popular depictions of Indigenous languages rarely place them in the Information Age. Attention to their presence in what Dakota Sioux historian Philip Deloria might call “unexpected places," challenge representational expectations of where and how Indigenous languages are meaningfully deployed. Across the Americas, Indigenous languages are finding emergent vitalities in both institutional and grassroots contexts.

How are languages — and people — transformed by their contemporary engagements with new media and informational technologies? How are Indigenous users transforming media and communication technologies and practices? Contemporary engagements with Indigenous media, performance, activism and scholarship demonstrate ways in which what is old may be made new again, or what is new can be made old and invested with the authority of the past for future action.

The speakers in this webinar traverse the unexpected, regenerative and sometimes contradictory linguistic and media practices of Indigenous-language speakers across the America, who work to decolonize and Indigenize various spaces and media, both old and new. 

Participants may register here. View the full schedule at this link.

The webinar will include:

Tuesday, Nov. 17

Welcoming Remarks  

Panel 1: “Mediated Methods”

  • Erin Debenport (UCLA) – “Business as Usual: The Twin Futures of Indigenous Language Media” 
  • Chris Bloechl (University of Chicago) – “Formulations of Locality and Modernity in Mediatized Yucatec Maya”  
  • Qui’chi Patlan (UT Austin) – “‘Yachak’ or ‘Brujo’? Branding a Shamanic Drum and Chant in Otavalo’s Pirate Economy” 
  • Georgia Ennis (Penn State) – “Reweaving Worlds: More-than-Language Reclamation in the Western Amazon” 
  •  Discussant, Tony Webster (UT Austin) 

Wednesday, Nov. 18

Panel 2 — “Transforming Textuality”

  • Karl Swinehart (University of Louisville) – “Text, Toponyms, and Transformation: Aymara in La Paz’s Linguistic Landscape” 
  • Joseph Marks (University of Arizona) – “(Re)contextualizing and Transforming Indigenous Motifs for Healing During Times of Sorrow” 
  • Morgan Siewert (UT Austin) – “The Grammar of Stories: Reimagining Intellectual Authority and Lexicography in the Production of a Community-Generated Nishnaabemwin Word List” 
  • Discussant, Jenny Davis (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) 

Questions? Contact Georgia Ennis at

Last Updated April 15, 2021