AfricaNSFThe Research University (TRU)

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Language Ideologies, Conservation Ideologies: Multilingualism and Collaboration in Transnational Environmental Work: University of California-Los Angeles

Paul Kroskrity

[email protected]

Environmental conservation efforts are often directed to regions of the world that have high levels of biodiversity. Such areas frequently have high levels of linguistic diversity, as well. This means that the difficulties of bringing about coordination and cooperation among diverse stakeholders are all too often compounded by miscommunications and misunderstandings resulting from linguistic failure. Successful conservation requires collaboration between scientists, educators, hunters, farmers, policy makers, and citizens, all of whom may have different goals and hold different beliefs about the environment. How is such collaboration possible when people must work across multiple languages to communicate? When is it successful? When and why does it fail? To answer these questions, University of California Los Angeles anthropology doctoral candidate Rosalie Edmonds, supervised by Dr. Paul V. Kroskrity, will conduct a close anthropological and linguistic investigation of communication and collaboration in a site that is both highly bio-diverse and deeply multi-lingual. Examining how varied stakeholders work together in this site will enable the creation of appropriate policies and practices for multi-lingual workplaces wherever they may occur.<br/><br/>The research will take place at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon, Central Africa. This is an appropriate site for this investigation because in addition to English and French, Cameroon is home to 280 indigenous languages and the Centre is also visited by tourists who speak yet more languages. Despite these major lingustic challenges, the Centre has successfully rescued and rehabilitated animals for over twenty years, while also providing environmental education programming in local schools and rural communities, and serving as a tourist destination. In such a diverse context, what languages do people use to communicate with each other, and how do they resolve misunderstandings? The researcher will collect data by observing how people collaborate to solve environmental problems. She will record daily activities and natural language interactions; conduct interviews to explore people's beliefs about conservation work and perceptions of communication; and carry out participant observation to gain an insider understanding. By combining approaches from linguistic and environmental anthropology, this research document how people talk about, conceptualize, and perform conservation-related tasks in a multilingual environment, and what impact their talk has on how the work is accomplished. Clarifying how people communicate and work together in this situation will permit a new perspective on how global problems can be successfully negotiated in transnational, multilingual settings. Additionally, this research will develop practical materials to facilitate cross-cultural communication, including language guides, and a best practices workshop for communicating with people from different backgrounds.

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