Anthropology | Gender, Language, Law
E400 | 15729 | Suslak


Because we are socialized into speaking at an early age, we are often
unaware of gender differences in the use of language. Yet scholars
have noted, for example, that in many cultures women are more expert
in the use of politeness forms. Does this make a difference when women
and men go to court? It has been noted that in many societies men
display more expertise in speaking with authority. Does this matter in
court? Does a male judge speak with more authority than a female
judge? What role does narrative play in a courtroom? What language is
spoken in courts? How and why do certain everyday forms of speaking
come to seen as criminal offenses?

In this class we focus on the ways in which gender roles intersect
with language in legal settings. We will consider studies that focus
on language as performed by men and women in courts, by lawyers and
litigants. We will also be investigating how different societies
regulate menís and womenís use of taboo language, jokes, insults,
threats, and other types of speech.

In order to develop a broader, cross-cultural understanding of the
issues we will be examining and comparing a diverse set of cases
including: insults and curses heard in customary courts in Ghana,
menís and womenís oratory in indigenous Mexican communities, gender
and land tenure in Aboriginal Australia, taboo speech in its many
forms, the role of narrative in social life and in courts around the
world, and speech associated with sexual harassment and in sexually
threatening situations in American courts and elsewhere.