Paja L. Faudree Associate Professor of Anthropology

Paja Faudree is a linguistic anthropologist whose research interests include language and politics, indigenous literary and social movements, the interface between music and language, the ethnohistory of New World colonization, and the global marketing of indigenous rights discourses, indigenous knowledge, and plants. She received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and came to Brown following a Harper-Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. She is affiliated with Brown's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Native American and Indigenous Studies, the Program in Science and Technology Studies, and Development Studies. Professor Faudree teaches courses on language and society, social movements in Latin America, language and politics, language and music, and the anthropology of drugs. She is also a published poet and playwright, and holds an MFA from Brown's literary arts program.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

2013 - Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press.

2012 - "Music, Language, and Texts: Sound and Semiotic Ethnography." Annual Review of Anthropology 41:519-536.

2012 - "How to Say Things with Wars: Performativity and the Temporal Pragmatics of Power in the Requerimiento of the Spanish Conquest." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 22(3).

2009 - "Linguistic Anthropology: An Election Cycle Guide." American Anthropologist 112(2):153-161.

research statement

In Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico Professor Faudree chronicles a linguistic renaissance whose broad appeal for ordinary people often excluded from social movements stems from its emphasis on singing. Based on three years of ethnographic research among speakers of Mazatec, Singing for the Dead argues that the success of the social movement it documents arises from its vindication of the indigenous language spoken – and sung – throughout the region. New language practices, enacted in sites like annual Day of the Dead celebrations and the religious use of hallucinogenic plants, are tying people not only to others living across the region but also to the dead who share their language. More importantly, the revival and reconfiguration of singing in such settings has been tied to the introduction of writing, making literacy in the indigenous language a potent political catalyst promoting broad regional unity. By collectively singing in a shared, stigmatized language, people forge new ideas about community, balance the pull of past traditions against the pressures of modernization, and demand recognition within the national imagination while claiming ethnic identities at odds with standing models of Mexican citizenship. This project was funded by the Social Science Research Council, Wenner-Gren, Fulbright-Hays, and Ford.

Dr. Faudree's current Mexico-based project, "Magic Mint: An Ethnography of the Global Salvia Trade," examines the linguistic and material practices that shape global trade in Salvia divinorum, one of the world's newest hallucinogenic "drugs." Indigenous Mexicans have long used the plant in religious rituals. Recently, however, it has become a global commodity known simply as "salvia"; it is widely "advertised" online as a potent, legal alternative to marijuana. By elucidating the discursive dynamics through which salvia is given value, this study has implications for other cases where formally local "things" are inserted into complex trade networks and competing regimes of meaning. The project is funded by a Fulbright senior award and by Wenner-Gren.

A third project expands on the "sonic economy" of indigenous languages by focusing on the interface between language and music, speech and writing, art and politics, in both historical and contemporary settings and in face-to-face and cyber interactions. Mazatec's whistled register, used for chanting invocations in ritual ceremonies, is involved in an array of local singing practices. The project is funded by the American Philosophical Society Franklin Research Grant.