Siragusa L. Secrets of Vepsians: Bilingualism, Code Switching and Practices of Concealment
Laura SIRAGUSA — PhD in Anthropology, University of Helsinki; University of Aberdeen (Finland, Helsinki; Great Britain, Aberdeen)
ABSTRACT. The present article is devoted to secrecy in language practices. In social anthropology, secrecy is often understood through “epistemological and ethical spheres”, created by the researcher or research institutes (Jones 2014). This article is to add to that understanding of secrecy with an example of mono- and bilingual language practices. Based on my own fieldwork experience with Vepsians (2009–2015), I argue that secrecy is an important strategy of protection for people, animals and the environment from undesirable events; that secrecy can change its status from the means of protection and threat in the translation of language and knowledge from one generation of Vepsians to the next, to the consolidation of language through the use of new information technologies. In this study, I emphasize the difference in the strategies of secrecy used by different generations, urban and rural Vepsians, whose practices of secrecy and concealment are connected with the ‘oral vs written’ communication and with code switching, found in many ontological and political situations of language choice. I have tried to go beyond conventional discussion of the economic impact on the Vepsian language Renaissance to be able to study the subtle, and at the same time essential factors, that have a positive or negative influence on this process.
KEYWORDS: Vepsians, secrecy, mother tongue, bilingualism, oral vs written
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