2010 Fellows | January 28, 2013

SSRC Fellow Kathryn Graber

Knowledge and Authority in Shift: A Linguistic Ethnography of Multilingual News Media in the Buryat Territories of Russia

Discipline: Linguistic Anthropology

University at Time of Fellowship: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


This dissertation examines how media institutions direct language contact and minority language use in a border region of the Russian Federation. Specifically, I analyze news media as a particular kind of knowledge institution that reflects and regulates ideologies about language use and meaning in ethnic Buryatia, a multilingual area of southeastern Siberia. Generations of speakers here have been shifting to Russian from Buryat, an indigenous language closely related to Mongolian. Drawing on 18 months of archival, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic field research, I explain mass media’s role in creating and sustaining a minority language public in Soviet and post-Soviet Buryatia. I focus on how multilingual media circulate not only linguistic forms, but also ideologies about language use, modeling appropriate linguistic choices for different persons and institutions. Challenging existing research that assumes ideological consistency within Russian and kathryn-graber-fieldwork-page Soviet institutions, I find that media personnel in Buryatia act on varied, often contradictory language ideologies. My dissertation describes how this ideological diversity assumes patterns across media platforms, including television, radio, print, and ‘new’/digital media, to generate a range of ideas about where—and in whom—knowledge and authority are located.

Current Interests and Projects:



Field Images: