Fellow 2001-02

Michele E. J. Koven



Professor Koven has an interest in the role of culture in verbal interaction, especially how speakers perform and infer cultural identities in their own and others’ talk. She is involved in a long-term ethnographic project that addresses relationships between identity and language practices of the Portuguese migrant community in France.

Most people participate in a range of multiple cultural and linguistic contexts; within each, they may assume distinct identities. This multiplicity of contexts is particularly apparent for bilinguals, who routinely function with two or more sets of linguistic and cultural norms. The French-Portuguese bilinguals in this research often reflect on the impact of their multiple codes on their subjective experiences of self. As one reported, “I feel like that when I speak Portuguese, automatically, I’m in a different world-automatically, it’s different—it’s a different color.”

During her Center appointment, Professor Koven will complete a book manuscript exploring consequences of the notion that there is no simple correspondence between person, language, and culture in contemporary, complex societies. The book provides a theoretical account for the relationships between language(s) and self, within the context of a methodologically innovative study, in which she explores bilinguals’ self-presentations in their two languages. The project contributes to scholarship in several disciplines that explores the role of linguistic and cultural norms in local experiences and expressions of identity.