Debra Spitulnik Vidali
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Ph. D. in Linguistic Anthropology
University of Chicago, 1994
OFFICE: Anthropology Building, Rm 217
Professor Vidali has been an a active member of the Program in Linguistics since its founding in 1995 and is also a former Director of the Program. Her areas of specialization include linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, semiotics, comparative Bantu linguistics, Bemba, sociocultural anthropology, national and transnational processes, and Media studies. She regularly teaches courses such as Linguistics 330 Language and Culture and Linguistics 340 Topics in Sociolinguistics (including courses on Discourse Analysis and Ethnography of Communication), as well as other courses in Anthropology at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
In her research, writing, and teaching, Professor. Vidali takes a critical social science perspective, one which asks about the disciplinary practices that surround the production and presentation of knowledge. Accordingly, research methods - as well as the processes of induction, conjecture, and the entextualization of research data in ethnographic writing - are central concerns. This approach is informed by her background in the philosophy of language and linguistic anthropology. Along these lines, she takes a discourse-centered approach to culture, viewing language and communicative practices as constitutive of culture and the very practice of social science. In addition to these interests, her work has focused on talk radio, multilingualism, codeswitching, problems of translation, lexical semantics, corpus linguistics, and linguistic hybridity in relationship to identity and modernity.
Professor Vidali's current research focuses on media theory, media ethnography, media-nation-publics, critical media literacy, discourse circulation, and discourse analysis. This work investigates how media have the power to define reality and to set the tone for public culture and political life. She is also concerned with the way that people resist or reshape media messages and the intended functions of media. Her approach to the way that media work emphasizes the discursive and semiotic processes of mediated communication, as well as the ethnographic particulars of media production and media consumption.