I am a linguistic, cultural, and psychological anthropologist. I am also engaged with the interdisciplinary fields of education and communication and I have worked with the Chabad-Lubavitch, the K’iche’ Maya in Guatemala, and the Marshallese in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Currently I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
I am concerned with the social and interactional production of difference, particularly in Oceania and the Pacific diaspora. My book, Talking Like Children: Language and the Production of Age in the Marshall Islands (Oxford University Press 2019) applies the significant advances in cultural and linguistic analyses of well-discussed forms of social differentiation—such as gender and race—to the relatively overlooked category of age. I argue that immaturity is cultural, not natural, and that Marshallese children are socialized to be different from their elders. I also show how a basic and central issue in anthropological theory and ethnography—exchange in Oceania—cannot be understood without attention to the life-course or children— revealing the relevance of age to anthropological theory. In both the book and several other publications, I apply my findings on interaction, age, and difference to the analysis of economics and exchange, kinship and adoption, and humanitarian campaigns to end corporal punishment.
I am beginning a new project on language, age, and race in the Marshallese diaspora, and specifically in Springdale, Arkansas. This project asks (1) How are distinct Marshallese linguistic and cultural practices interpreted and transformed in school? and (2) What effect do these interactions have on Marshallese diaspora identity?
My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Society for Psychological Anthropology, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, the University of Chicago, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.