Mediating Endangerment: Local Radio and Language Vitality in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Mass media, though often seen as a homogenizing force, can also encourage cultural diversity and linguistic vitality in endangered languages. Grounded in long-term ethnographic research with producers and consumers of lowland Quichua radio media in the Ecuadorian Amazon, this dissertation investigates both intended and unforeseen effects of the use of local radio media for indigenous language revitalization projects. Quichua radio media production demonstrates that participatory media are key sites for the transmission, transformation, and, sometimes, the loss of local verbal artistry, linguistic forms, and interactional practices. Through a fine-grained analysis of linguistic practice and verbal art on-air and in face-to-face interaction, this project shows how media production strengthens some aspects of linguistic and cultural practice, while rendering others invisible. Indigenous radio media amplifies and extends spaces to encourage the transmission of endangered languages, within which producers and listeners continue to debate and define contemporary linguistic and cultural practice.