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BILL MAURER

Comment: Got Language? Law, Property, and the


Anthropological Imagination

ABSTRACT This comment reflects on the legal (specifically, proprietary) tropes of linguistics, and the linguistic tropes of legal anthro-
pology. It suggests analogies between discussions around “language rights” in contemporary political struggles, and discussions
around the delineation of objects and subjects in anthropological theory. Such analogies may help side-step the relativism-universalism
impasse that has beset the critique of rights and the critique of the objectification of language. [Keywords: language, law, anthropo-
logical theory, value]

T HE EMERGENCE OF “language rights” as a new


field of struggle for diverse linguistic groups seeking
political recognition raises pressing questions for contem-
personification and reification, twinned processes that are
also at issue in the domains of law and language.
In this comment, I would like to flag the relevance of
porary anthropology. The articles collected here docu- the new anthropology of law to the analysis both of
ment the changing contours of language rights discourses rights-talk in the world and of ideology-talk in linguistic
and analyze them in terms of certain important trends in anthropology. This is a two-way street: The anthropology
linguistic anthropology—namely, theories of language of law could stand to learn a lot about its object of study
ideology (see, e.g., the contributors to Brenneis and Ma- by paying more attention to linguistics. Indeed, the work
caulay 1998; Kroskrity 2000; Schieffelin et al. 1998). Those offered by linguistics may afford a rapprochement of sorts
who enlist language rights for political projects (either between two distinctive, though interrelated, movements
their own, or others’) demonstrate a central precept of this in legal anthropology: that which attends to microlevel
scholarship, namely, that ideologies of language “envision interactions in legal settings like courtrooms (in which an-
thropologists with linguistic training have been key play-
and enact ties of language to identity, to aesthetics, to mo-
ers, e.g., Brenneis 1988; Conley and O’Barr 1998; Hirsch
rality, and to epistemology” (Woolard 1998:3). People
1998; Mertz 1994; Philips 2000), and that which attends
seeking language rights on their own or others’ behalf are
to macrolevel processes like the forging of colonial and
not always concerned with language per se but with other
postcolonial societies (in which linguistically trained an-
political or moral goals. In short, they enlist language for
thropologists mostly have not been key players—with a
ideological ends. Sometimes, the ideologies of language
few exceptions such as Hirsch 1998; Philips 2000).1 Lin-
emerging from this process put into play theories from lin-
guists, having found that their subjects are increasingly
guistics long since abandoned by the discipline. This mi-
forced to contend with the law—itself a rather particular
gration of theories into political domains and back again linguistic production—have suddenly discovered “the law”
makes for a specific kind of reflexivity that tugs on some itself. Their subjects, meanwhile, have at the same moment
of the authors who report their research here. This reflex- discovered “language.” In so doing, both present familiar
ivity has broad implications for disciplinary conversations questions to the anthropology of law and the discipline
over the impact of liberal legal orders as they seemingly go more generally. I am speaking specifically of the relativism–
global. It also calls to mind debates that have been taking universalism problem, as well as the rights–relationships
place in the anthropology of law for some time now, and and individual–collective dichotomies that have animated
has analogues in other anthropological discussions, such (and plagued) anthropological knowledge in its legal and
as the debate over the politics of recognition for liberal- linguistic guises.
ism’s others or how to represent “the gift” without relying Taken collectively, this cluster of articles presents three
on capitalist notions of economy and value. The latter is overriding concerns. One is a sense that members of mi-
relevant because of its reconsideration of the dynamics of nority linguistic communities in multicultural states are

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST 105(4):775–781. COPYRIGHT © 2003, AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION


776 American Anthropologist • Vol. 105, No. 4 • December 2003

not being given fair treatment under the law or in other constituted through contract pivot around a precontrac-
domains of their lives, and that “language rights” may tual axis that places agents on one end and objects at the
provide redress for past and present wrongs. The second is other. Entities considered to be in-between (historically,
a sense of urgency caused by the rapidity at which lan- entities like women, babies, genes, slaves, labor, culture,
guages of the world are disappearing. The newly available ideas) have been among the most vigorously contested ob-
tool of language rights, whatever its problems, may pro- jects of property. Language now joins them.
vide the only means of saving such languages by granting Language, according to language rights ideology, is a
their preservation the warrant of international law. The collective property owned by specific groups and is to be
third is a sense that linguistics as a field may ultimately made available for the use of individuals within those
fail to generate new insights if its objects of study—the di- groups: “All languages are collectively constituted and are
verse languages of the world—either disappear or find made available within a community for individual use as
themselves so transformed by their encounter with power- tools of cohesion, identification, communication and
ful others (from states that attempt to quash them to intel- creative expression” (UDLR Article 7.2). At the same time,
lectuals that attempt to codify them) as to be utterly un- peoples are to be guaranteed “the right for their own lan-
recognizable as truly distinct linguistic structures and guage and culture to be taught” and “the right to an equi-
systems. table presence of their language and culture in the com-
Language rights pack a number of powerful language munications media,” among other rights of publicity
ideologies, as amply documented by the articles in this (Article 3.2). Here, the right to a group’s exclusive owner-
cluster. I would like to limit myself here to their property ship is disentangled from use: Groups’ interest in educa-
ideology, since it is central to the reification of language tion or other forms of publicity seems to require that
itself described in some of the articles here. Such reifica- states or other powerful agents also use their languages.
tion is taken for granted in documents like the draft Uni- The flip side is that these powerful agents can then also
versal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (UDLR), as well as objectify language as a repressive tactic—eliminate the
in the cultural and political practices of people seeking language and you eliminate the group.2
language rights or trying to develop them for others. This Given the seemingly inexorable trend toward under-
is not surprising, since rights themselves have historically standing language as property, one analytical strategy
been figured in terms of property and since property rights might be to accept the thingification of language, its sun-
are the model for other kinds of rights in societies struc- dering from its lived contexts, and the codification that
tured by liberal law (Collier et al. 1995; Pashukanis 1989). actively institutes its thingness. Languages are disappear-
Documents like the UDLR assume that reified languages ing fast, and while the reification of languages as such
belong to the people who speak or once may have spoken may not be the best or most epistemologically clean tool
them. “The people” is understood to be a singular collec- for linguists to pick up in the effort to save them, it is the
tivity: one people, one language. And the language may be only one available. Besides, the subject-communities of
a present reality or may be a past potentiality, part of an languages often are themselves engaged in this kind of rei-
imagined heritage whether or not it is currently part of the fication, too. A related analytical option might be to bor-
quotidian experience of the people. The politics of pos- row from broader rights discourses in order to hone and
sessing an identity and claiming recognition based on it refine the claims of language rights. Supplementing that
(Coombe 1993) is here subsumed into the politics of pos- discourse with attention to the durability of linguistic
sessing a language and demanding that it be recognized. structures (as opposed to their thingness) may help sub-
This objectification of language makes language a good ject-communities make a claim on their own pasts, their
claimed by discrete communities rather than a practiced own cultural or identitarian resilience in the present. Re-
or lived milieu, a noun rather than a verb, mirroring the sourcing language in this way permits a resourcing of the
objectification of culture that has been at issue in debates past through invented traditions that may sustain future
over the universality of human rights (Wilson 1997:9). political goals or other social projects that may seem at
Relativist critiques of rights that assume cultural in- first brush to have nothing to do with language. Sustain-
compatibilities with universal doctrines often stabilize and ing those goals may also have the beneficial side effect of
thingify “cultures” in much the same way that language sustaining the languages, albeit in objectified form.
rights discourses reify “languages.” As it does with culture, I cannot help but to think that we have been here be-
this objectification makes language the subject of public fore. Legal anthropologists involved in other assertions of
claims. Indeed, language rights and cultural rights, like rights—rights in land or cultural resources, for exam-
property rights, presuppose publicity. The enjoyment of ple—have similarly ripped particulars from cultural fabrics
one’s goods in private is dependent on having previously in order to help create new ways of protecting the lifeways
established exclusive claims to them in public through the of disempowered groups. With the same tacking back and
institution of contract and its precontractual bases: the forth between the normative and the relativist, they have
separation of the world into possessors and possessions, also noticed that their subjects have been objectifying
agents and objects. Whether imagined as individual or their own cultures in an effort to “save” them from de-
collective, private or public, properties recognized in and struction, sometimes in advance of their encounter with
Maurer • Got Language? 777

anthropologists and often with anthropologists at their cant given the subject matter of each of the articles here,
side. Legal anthropologists have worried that this objecti- and the manner in which they hinge on questions of own-
fication represents the triumph of the hegemonic forces ership and the publicity of property claims in liberal socie-
that would flatten or erase cultural difference. Like the lin- ties. As Joseph Errington (this issue) suggests: You have to
guists, the legal anthropologists, after noting the problem get (procure) a new totality called language in order to get
of rights, end up in much the same position: Rights may (procure) language rights; at the same time, you have to
not be the best tool for the job, but, at present, they are get (understand) “language” as a particular kind of prop-
the only tool we have. Setting aside the missionary tenor erty. You also, of course, have to get (understand) rights if
of the imperative to “protect” and the ecological tone of you want to claim them as your procurement. The prob-
“preservation,” I would like to focus here on the quanda- lem for anthropology is that the metalanguage of analysis
ries that objectification apparently produces, and the in- and the object language of law are one and the same in
terrelationship between objectification and rights. There this instance (after Lucy 1993:28). Property, for example,
are two problems here, and I will overdraw them for the is both an analytical category and a legal category, and the
sake of argument. analytical categories available for the analysis of property
The first concerns the state of the world and its effects recapitulate the legal categories of person, thing, and rela-
on theory: Is it becoming more and more that case that tion implicated in liberal orders. Procurement, for example,
peoples everywhere are making of their lived experiential is at one and the same time the thing acquired, the action
patterns and linguistic structures objectified “things” such through which it is acquired, and the legal instrument for
as “cultures” and “languages?” Is there, as Richard Handler doing so. Furthermore, modern law uses itself reflexively
claimed, a growing “culture of cultural objectification” as its own metalanguage. In addition, the law continually
(1988:195)? If so, then what should anthropologists do comments on itself. Indeed, this metacommentary is the
about it? Is our charge to preserve and protect distinctive law, affording it its myths of transcendence and universal-
lifeways—even if those doing the objectification have no ity (Fitzpatrick 1992).
interest in being preserved or protected or if their objectifi- The anthropology of law has tried to understand how
cation actively destroys that distinctiveness, or if that de- liberal legality constitutes individuals and rights as it fore-
struction is what they seem to want (i.e., is ours a mission- grounds the individual as owner of its capacities (e.g., Col-
ary task)? Or, is our charge simply to document and lier et al. 1995; Coombe 1993; Merry 2000). It has ex-
lament the worlds lost, the falling silent of different voices tended and criticized C. B. Macpherson’s (1962) classic
in an emerging metamonoculture where there is only one discussion of possessive individualism and offered trench-
model of difference—difference as the “choice” of a com- ant analyses of the manner in which modern legal orders
modifiable “culture” or “identity” or “language” (I have presuppose and constitute the individual as owner of its
my culture, and you have yours, the statement affirming capacities and possessor of a unique “voice.” The capaci-
“culture” as an object and cultural life as property)? This is ties can be sold in a “free” market underwritten by con-
as much a moral, normative problem as an interpretive tract. The voice can express the unique interests of the in-
and epistemological one. dividual in the public sphere via recognizable speech acts.
The second problem concerns the state of theory and Some legal anthropologists have attended to the “failures”
its effects in the world: Do our critical apparatuses more as well. These failures include the moments when the ca-
and more make of the world a collection of objects detach- pacities go unvalued and unmarketable. They also include
able from contexts and that reify the flow of cultural life? the moments when voice is incomprehensible because of
Do our categories of analysis merely reflect our own posi- incommensurabilities between legal regimes that demand
tion inside the hegemonic force that is propelling the speaking subjects voicing private interests and other social
transformation and, possibly, destruction, of other cul- modalities that do not, or do not do so in quite the same
tural worlds? Might it be, further, that our critical appara- way. The paradox here is that liberal legal orders rest on
tuses themselves, as metalanguages, will redound into the the differences among selves, as well as excluded others, as
world and make it in the image of our theories, thus con- the law’s raw material—whether law is conceptualized as a
tributing to the homogenization of cultural difference? Af- domain for reconciling contending interests, as tempering
ter all, our categories of analysis and the languages of the- the vagaries of capitalism (Durkheim 1933; see Collier
ory through which they operate are themselves “suffused 2002), or as warranting “civilization” itself (Maine 1917).
with the ideological moment of the semiotic processes in Liberal law seems to say to its others, “Be other so that we
which they figure” (Silverstein 1998:130). This is also as will not ossify [and] make yourself doable for us”
much a moral problem as an interpretative and epistemo- (Povinelli 2001:329), since liberalism’s others provide it
logical one. with the difference that warrants law’s power as transcen-
There is a long tradition of anthropological reflection dent arbitrator and mediator.
on the character of modern, liberal legal orders, and an Like the articles in this cluster, legal anthropology and
important subtradition of anthropological work on the law scholarship more generally have worried about the
language of the law and its associated rhetorics of posses- implications of the critique of rights. Because rights assume
sion and property. These rhetorics seem especially signifi- an individual who “has” them and are founded in a model
778 American Anthropologist • Vol. 105, No. 4 • December 2003

of property, they cannot capture a whole host of social spread of human rights as a universal discourse is to miss
contingencies (collective properties, nonproprietary claims the point that people around the world are using legal dis-
to land or whatnot; see, e.g., Gledhill 1997). Furthermore, courses in ways never intended by the liberalism’s archi-
they institute property as the key claim above all others. tects. “To some extent,” Merry writes, “the law mobilized
Yet rights are increasingly the only game in town, and in indigenous rights movements is becoming vernacular-
property is rather desirable to those who do not have it or ized, analogous to the way languages become vernacular-
cannot get their claims to it legitimated and recognized by ized over time” (Merry 1997:29). She then compares liber-
law. Many worry that if critics deconstruct rights, then alism’s vernacularization to the process of the separation
they delegitimate peoples who have finally, after long and of imperial languages into pidgins and cites Anderson’s ac-
often bloody struggles, gained access to them (e.g., Wil- count of the vernacularization of Latin and the sub-
liams 1991). Critical race theorists in law have been devel- sequent erosion of the power of educated elites in early
oping ways of using rights-talk contingently, without tak- modern Christendom (Anderson 1991:40–42). Earlier,
ing on all of its individualist or proprietary baggage (e.g., Clifford Geertz noted that we live in a “confusion of legal
Crenshaw et al. 1995; Delgado and Stefancic 2001). tongues” (Geertz 1983:220, quoted in Wilson 1997:11).
The crux of the matter is what to do with the univer- It is remarkable that these language tropes have gone
salist pretensions of rights without falling into the traps of relatively unremarked in legal anthropology. It is also re-
relativism. When relativists declare that rights are not part markable that the proprietary logic of law and law’s
of this or that cultural world and so have no place there; mythic metalinguistic transcendence has gone little no-
or, that if rights are accorded a place, they can only do ticed in linguistics. Language and property come to the
harm by commodifying relations or things that were once fore for legal anthropology and linguistic anthropology re-
integral to people’s lifeways, relativists reinstitute cultures spectively when these fields take on the problem of rights,
as definable, objectifiable entities that their critique of human or otherwise. One might then ask, what is the lan-
rights as objectifying “culture” sought to challenge. Simi- guage ideology of legal anthropology, and what is the le-
larly, when relativists seek to discover “local” or “indige- gal ideology of linguistic anthropology?
nous” conceptions of rights, or to find a least common de- Again, to overdraw so as almost to caricature the mat-
nominator shared by all the world’s cultures that will ter for sake of making other things explicit: The language
ground a new conception of rights (such as the lex talionis, ideology of legal anthropology appears to have affinities
or the eye-for-an-eye conception of justice; see Renteln with 19th-century philology. Dominant languages of law
1990), they undermine their own claims of cultural in- speciate, as it were.3 They separate and divide and differ-
commensurability (Wilson 1997:7). entiate into new idioms as they vernacularize. That ver-
Rather than linger over the relativism debate, I would nacularization introduces new (legal) possibilities, even if
like to draw attention to how some anthropologists of lib- it leaves the linguistic ones intact. A language’s domi-
eral law have actually sidestepped it. Their maneuver calls nance—here, the language of rights, or the language of lib-
to mind the linguists’ attempt to square language rights eralism—is presupposed, as is the fact that speciation is
with its own ideologies. It may also in itself be of interest what happens to language over time. The mode of reason-
to linguistic anthropologists, because that maneuver is to ing is teleological, and the facts mustered have the same
embrace language. ontological qualities as the persons and properties of law:
Jane Collier (2002), for example, argues that in spite discrete, separate, empirically observable, and potentially
of her appreciation of cultural difference and incommen- commodifiable (one might even say bourgeois).
surability, she is “not alarmed by the spread of human The legal ideology of linguistic anthropology seems to
rights discourses around the world” because human rights have affinities with myths of law’s transcendence. Lan-
is “a language of argument” (2002:73). Human rights con- guage ideologies are metalanguages, language about lan-
tains innumerable contradictions and inconsistencies, not guage, as is the law. Like the law, language ideologies can
to mention their uneven enforcement (or enforceability), describe language as referentialist or as pragmatic, as con-
and so Collier turns her critical and ethnographic atten- stative or performative. Indeed, it is striking that the ex-
tion to the “languages of argument” that constitute “hu- amples of performative linguistic utterances with which
man rights” rather than assuming there is any unified co- most anthropologists are familiar involve the law consti-
herence to this supposedly universal and hegemonic tuting the objects it names (e.g., “I now pronounce you
discourse. Furthermore, like Elizabeth Povinelli (2001), man and wife”). Legal speech is the signal example of per-
Collier observes that the tension between enforcing uni- formative speech (e.g., Butler 1997). And what better ex-
versal rights and respecting cultural difference is internal ample than legal proceedings or a procurement, as discussed
to liberal legal orders. Rational people must possess their above, would serve to illustrate Michael Silverstein’s point
own distinctive “traditions” in order to make their claim about the “special position of certain institutional sites of
to self-determination and against the yoke of others’ laws. social practice” that are “both object and modality of ideo-
Collier notes that self-government demands distinctive logical expression” (Silverstein 1998:136)? When John
selves to be governed. Similarly, Sally Merry (2000) leans Searle substituted the promise for J. L. Austin’s oath of
on a language metaphor when she argues that to decry the marriage as “paradigmatic of our ways of ‘doing things
Maurer • Got Language? 779

with words,’ ” as Michelle Rosaldo long ago pointed out, sentation (value) to its object. Substitution, by contrast,
Searle authorized the “sincerity and integrity of the one creates analogies, and equivalence in the exchange of gifts
who speaks” and thereby conjured a world “where privacy “will always (can only) appear as a matching of units”
. . . is what gives rise to talk” (Rosaldo 1982:211). As made to become analogues of one another (Strathern
Rosaldo further noted, “our very entry into (THE, or any) 1992:171), not a comparison of ratios between different
‘social contract’ constitutes such a ‘promise,’ thus mitigat- kinds of items. The operation does not depend on “how
ing the need to voice commitments in our day to day af- many ones make up 20 or 30” in an exchange of fish for
fairs” (1982:231). Her point, of course, was that not all sago or pig for pig or whatever, but “how many ones make
peoples live in worlds that presuppose the divergence and up the right one” (1992:187, emphasis added, parentheses
contestation of private interests. I would add that the ref- omitted).
erence–action dichotomy in linguistics recapitulates the My aim is to prod the anthropological imagination.
thing–relation dichotomy in law, both securing the stabil- Legal anthropology and language ideology theories per-
ity of objects and privately motivated speaking subjects. sistently meet the world with typologies and comparative
I am moving to one side of the discussions presented frameworks and find the same therein. The litany is famil-
in the articles in this cluster now, for it seems to me that iar: countering possessive individualism with possessive
coming to grips with the legal ideology of language ideol- collectivism; rights with relationships; property as a thing
ogy theory, and the language ideology of legal anthropol- with property as a set of rights; the referential functions of
ogy, might afford an occasion for anthropology to “stop language with the pragmatic or performative functions of
thinking about the world in certain ways” (Strathern language; object language with metalanguage; and meta-
1988:11). Rather than trying to adjudicate between the le- language with meta-metalanguage, ad infinitum. Contrasts
gal ideology of language ideology theories or the language within a set and comparisons via the contrasts generate
ideology of legal anthropology, allow me to suggest an new knowledge and add to the stock of knowledge at an-
analogy in another domain. thropologists’ disposal. Note the quantitative commodity
The anthropology of so-called gift societies foundered logic. Measurement of deviation from a norm or a domi-
on assessments of value. In the classic view, if capitalist nant form lends the operation empirical weight (over here
economies conceived exchange in terms of the relative is the vernacularization of liberal law; over there is the lib-
worth of the items traded, gift economies did so in terms eral property form in the objectification of “language” by
of the worth of transacting parties. The problem, however, language rights). Instead of freezing when confronted
was that this model of the gift merely transposed the with reification of the cultural or linguistic kind discussed
terms of value from things to persons, holding steady the here, anthropology would do well to not decry, defen-
assessment of value as well as the discreteness of persons sively react, nor resign to its inevitability, its local tweak-
and things themselves. Such discreteness, Marilyn Strath- ing or reconfiguration notwithstanding. The abstraction
ern noted, “seems evident enough” (1992:172): “Yet their of reification itself in this manner assumes the private fig-
abstraction as units belongs to a particular cultural prac- ures of contract and the priority of individual identities of
tice which assumes the priority of individual identity. We persons and things as separate toward which Rosaldo ges-
can call it empiricist or bourgeois or a derivative of com- tured (see also Strathern 1992:173). I am calling for a sub-
modity logic” (1992:172–173, references omitted). Term- stitution of this kind of bourgeois empiricism with the
ing the traditional view “the barter model of value,” form of analogic substitution in order to dilate the anthro-
Strathern argued that it transposed the logic of enumera- pological imagination of reification. “Getting real,” Debo-
tion and comparison at work in capitalist value formation rah Battaglia reminds us, “goes beyond the properties of
“from things to persons” in order to explain gift societies things as matter or their forms as property. . . . Getting
(1992:172). Setting issues of enumeration and, therefore, real means examining the imaginary, as it is revealed and
quantity to one side, however, so as not to be “dazzled” by reconfigured in social practice” (1994:641; see Coutin et
all the counting that goes on in gift exchange (1992:171), al. 2002). Or, as Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “Not empiri-
she finds that the value in the gift hinges not on the meas- cism yet realism” (1983:325).
urement and commensuration of differences between The engagement of liberal law and its languages by
things but instead “a substitution of units” (1992:185). concatenations of persons and things whose separation as
These units are conceived “as body parts, from bodies (per- such does not necessarily precede that engagement may
sons) which . . . must first be construed as partible” and indeed produce something that sounds like vernaculariza-
also, therefore, as encompassing other things as well tion or looks like bourgeois reification. Simply accepting
(1992:185). For Strathern, because this process does not that it is so is to accept this same logic of abstraction and
conjure objects separate from subjects, but partible per- reification as a fait accompli, a foreordained outcome, and
sons/things and abstractable units substituted—not, im- an analytical apparatus, and to ignore the stretching of the
portantly, compared—with one another, this is not reifica- anthropological imagination provided in other quarters
tion of the bourgeois kind. Comparison introduces on precisely the question of reification and personifica-
numerical ratios between different goods to commensu- tion. I am simply arguing that people/things may be doing
rate value, and the problem of the adequacy of a repre- or saying something that looks and sounds empirically
780 American Anthropologist • Vol. 105, No. 4 • December 2003

“the same” as the forms of liberalism but is not necessarily 5. Deleuze replaces “hypotactic subsumptions” with “paratactic
conjunctions” (Boundas 1991:8). By this, he means to substitute
so.4 Just because people use rights does not mean that the relation of opposition and dialectical tension followed by syn-
rights have “won”; by the same token, it also does not thesis with the unspecified and open-ended “relation” of mere
mean that people are putting into play creative recombi- conjunction—the “and,” the principle of seriation that neither sup-
nations or whatnot, although it might. It may simply be poses nor denies relations of opposition, causality, analogy, ho-
mology, resemblance, or any other among its terms, “making pos-
that there are other elicitations of other persons/things go- sible convergence and compossibility as well as . . . divergence and
ing on in the world, as well as recombinations of persons resonance” (1991:8). Although not writing in the Deleuzean vein,
and things (and persons as things, things as persons, and Marcus and Holmes (n.d.) explore the “para-ethnographic” in a
convergent manner in a recent essay, from which the present en-
parts and such).
deavor has benefited.
The kind of engagement I am after is not, then, a 6. This statement tracks Strathern 1992:188 and Munn 1986:272.
quest for a critical metalanguage. It is rather a parallel en-
deavor to the knowledge productions of others, a paratac- REFERENCES CITED
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1994 Retaining Reality: Some Practical Problems with Objects as
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Property. Man, n.s. 29:631–644.
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BILL MAURER Department of Anthropology, University of jectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature. Constan-
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Brenneis, Donald
NOTES 1988 Language and Disputing. Annual Reviews in Anthropology
Acknowledgments. I would like to thank Tom Boellstorff, Jane Col- 17:221–237.
lier, Susan Coutin, and Barbara Yngvesson for their critical reading Brenneis, Donald, and Ronald K. S. Macaulay, eds.
of this commentary under tight time pressures, and I would like to 1998 The Matrix of Language: Contemporary Linguistic Anthro-
thank the editors of AA for inviting it and helping me to revise it. pology. Boulder: Westview Press.
Thanks to George Marcus for allowing me to cite his unpublished Butler, Judith
paper with Holmes. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to 1997 Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York:
the authors of the articles in this cluster for writing the stimulating Routledge.
pieces that elicited this response. Coutin, Susan B., Bill Maurer, and Barbara Yngvesson
2002 In the Mirror: The Legitimation Work of Globalization. Law
1. I am well aware that subdisciplinary specializations are often
and Social Inquiry 27(4):801–843.
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