My work focuses on questions of communication and ethics, asking what it means to understand, and be understood by, others. I am especially interested in how the capacity of people to make meaning together depends as much on a mutual willingness to do so as on shared linguistic resources. These topics have emerged through long-term fieldwork in Nepal, where I work with deaf people who use Nepali Sign Language (NSL, a conventional language), as well as deaf and hearing people who use “natural sign” (less conventional signed communicative practices).
My research in urban and rural areas incorporates participant observation along with video recordings of interactions in classes, homes, and shops. Recently I have also begun using more formal linguistic elicitation techniques. One of the goals of my writing is to show how the way I think about the phenomena I study owes as much to NSL signers’ own theories of language and sociality as to anthropological and linguistic theory.
I have also conducted short-term fieldwork in international deaf spaces, and I am inspired by queer theory as well.
Language and ethics
Deaf Studies/sign language studies
Anthropology of Nepal and South Asia
Forthcoming. “Performing Gesture: The Pragmatic Functions of Pantomimic and Lexical Repertoires in a Natural Sign Narrative.” Gesture 16 (2).
2014. “Building the Tower of Babel: International Sign, Linguistic Commensuration, and Moral Orientation.” Language in Society 43(4):445-465.
Book & Encyclopedia Chapters
2016. “Deaf Community: Southern Asia” (with M. Friedner and A. Kusters). In The Deaf Studies Encyclopedia, G. Gertz and P. Boudreault (eds). SAGE Reference.
2016. “Sign Language: Southern Asia” (with M. Morgan). In The Deaf Studies Encyclopedia, G. Gertz and P. Boudreault (eds). SAGE Reference.
2015. “One Language, or Maybe Two: Direct Communication, Understanding, and Informal Interpreting in International Deaf Encounters.” In It’s a Small World: International Deaf Spaces and Encounters, M. Friedner and A. Kusters (eds). Gallaudet University Press. Pp. 70-82.