Neo-Hymesian linguistic ethnography in the United Kingdom


Address correspondence to:
Ben Rampton
Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication
King's College London
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This paper describes the development of ‘linguistic ethnography’ in Britain over the last 5–15 years. British anthropology tends to overlook language, and instead, the U.K. Linguistic Ethnography Forum (LEF) has emerged from socio- and applied linguistics, bringing together a number of formative traditions (inter alia, Interactional Sociolinguistics, New Literacy Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis). The career paths and the institutional positions of LEF participants make their ethnography more a matter of getting analytic distance on what's close-at-hand than a process of getting familiar with the strange. When linked with post-structuralism more generally, this ‘from-inside-outwards’ trajectory produces analytic sensibilities tuned to discourse analysis as a method, doubtful about ‘comprehensive’ and ‘exotic’ ethnography, and well disposed to practical/political intervention. LE sits comfortably in the much broader shift from mono- to inter-disciplinarity in British higher education, though the inter-disciplinary environment makes it hard to take the relationship between linguistics and ethnography for granted.