24 April 2017

Bringing anthropological ethics into the classroom

With the Canadian Anthropology Society Conference next week comes CASCA's Spring issue of the network's newsletter, Culture.

One item that caught our eye in this issue was Eric Henry's description of a case-study discussion activity he created for students to work through some of the potentially thorny issues anthropologists and linguists face in the field: Targaryen Ethics: A Case Study in Linguistic Appropriation Using “Game of Thrones”

Henry writes that in his linguistic anthropology course,
language appears to students to be a relatively uncontroversial topic of research – in what possible way could listening to an oral history or eliciting verb conjugations harm someone?
I wanted to get students thinking about some of the thorny ethical issues surrounding linguistic heritage, appropriation, and ownership.
In this short piece, Henry provides the short text of his case study, where the linguistic anthropologist is approached by the producers of the hit television program about adapting a local (endangered) language to fit one of the show's mythic peoples. Henry also reflects on the outcomes of working through this case-study with his students, including some of the unanticipated issues that students themselves raised about the case, and the role of the anthropological expert in terms of language revitalization, representation, development, and what ethics means in these moments.

Henry's case-study is a great example of an activity to bring an experiential learning element into the classroom through role-playing. How might you adapt this style of case-study exercise in your own teaching?

Quick links and further reading:
Updated 23 August 2017: Henry's article is no longer available via Culture